ATLANTA--Nancy Fowler has publicly dissociated herself from Our Loving Mother's Children, Inc., the non-profit group that owns and maintains the Conyers site of her reported Marian visions and publishes material based on the messages.
Following a disagreement with Bob and Bernice Hughes of Fairfax, Va., who are officers of Our Loving Mother's Children and who have been close associates of Fowler since 1991, she met with Archbishop John F. Donoghue, gave an interview to The Georgia Bulletin and issued a statement separating herself from Our Loving Mother's Children and its future activities.
Areas of disagreement surfaced very recently, Fowler said, probably in January or December. The Oct. 13, 1998 gathering at the White Road site known as "the Farm" drew tens of thousands to hear what Fowler said was the last public Marian message and vision she would receive. The events, drawing pilgrims from across the U.S., Mexico and Latin America, began in 1990.
After October 1998, a monthly recitation of the rosary on the 13th at the Farm was being transmitted live by satellite by Our Loving Mother's Children. However, Fowler said she has not attended the rosary, praying privately instead.
Fowler cited three concerns with the "new direction" taken by Our Loving Mother's Children that she said diverged from their past patterns and approaches and with which she disagreed.
One was a request for specific and potentially large financial donations in the November/December newsletter distributed to supporters. The newsletter, reproduced on their website, suggested a range of donations from $25 to $10,000 to help underwrite the cost of monthly satellite transmissions of the rosary from the Farm.
"It has been common knowledge that we need donations to help support the publishing of the books, but there was no pressure, just whatever they felt - if they wanted to leave a dollar or two, or if they wanted to leave ten, but there never was encouragement for them to spend," Fowler said. "So I think of it as a relatively new change."
"There seems to be a more aggressive action to get people to come," she added. "I've always maintained that the Holy Spirit will inspire people's hearts and Our Lord and Lady will bring them. It is not a human endeavor. If you are called there to pray, then you come ... I think it is important to preserve that spirituality and not to humanize that effort."
She said that she could no longer advise others to support the group financially since the direction appeared to be changing and her name and experiences were being used in a way she opposed.
Fowler also said that a book of compiled messages from Conyers, entitled "Be Children of God," was being published without her final approval including, against Fowler's wishes, references to the visions and messages of a reported Bolivian stigmatist, Catalina (Catia) Rivas.
Fowler also said that a "new direction" of Our Loving Mother's Children was attempting to bring the events in Conyers together and link them with a movement in Bolivia called the Great Crusade of Love and Mercy tied to the reported visions and messages of Rivas.
She cited a postcard to supporters promoting the Feb. 13 Conyers satellite telecast which quoted a message reportedly received from the Blessed Mother by Rivas. The postcard said Rivas was at the Conyers site Jan. 13 when she received this reported message and would return Feb. 13. However, because of an airline strike Rivas was not in Conyers Feb. 13.
Fowler said she was asked to attend the rosary of Jan. 13, kneel next to the visiting visionary and pray alongside her, but declined to come. "They were upset," she said. Fowler said she picked her son up at school and took a long route home instead, praying the rosary.
Fowler said that a meeting between herself and Mr. and Mrs. Hughes in February had not resolved the differences. She then requested a meeting with Archbishop Donoghue and released the statement dissociating herself from the organization which was formed to publicize and support the reported Conyers apparitions.
"If they want to change the apparition site and promote something else, then I think I can only dissociate myself from that because I can only be held accountable or responsible for what I have received," she said.
Our Loving Mother's Children owns the property associated with the visions, except for Fowler's home, where there is also a well believed by pilgrims to have blessed water and a prayer site known as the "Holy Hill."
Fowler said that she would no longer go to the Farm in order to separate the events for which she feels spiritually accountable from any new activities that she does not endorse.
"We have always kept the apparition site focused to one apparition and I'm accountable to Our Lord and Our Lady ... for what I say," Fowler said. "I don't want to be held accountable for other messages of other people and other directions that we are going or literature that is going out that I don't have knowledge about."
"I have no objections to people publishing other people's messages per se. That is their right to do," she added. "I do object to the use (of) the apparition site for something other than what it is intended for."
She said from its inception she has not been on the board of Our Loving Mother's Children because she wanted to remain focused on prayer. She said that she receives no money from the organization.
"My apparitions of the Blessed Mother have ended on Oct. 13," she said. "I have prayed in unison with everyone in the quiet of my home. If I am now back at the apparition site, it would be confusing."
In an interview, Bob Hughes said that after receiving Fowler's Feb. 26 statement dissociating herself from the organization, he had turned the text of the upcoming book over to her associate, George Collins, and would not publish it without her approval.
"We have basically returned the book to George and it is in their hands," Hughes said.
He said that the text had been available to Fowler throughout the pre-publication process and the content was not in dispute until January.
He said he would refund money to an estimated 1,500 people who have already ordered the book if the dispute over the content is not cleared up by the end of March. He confirmed that Fowler has never been on the board of Our Loving Mother's Children or involved in the administration of the pilgrimage site.
The current board of directors of Our Loving Mother's Children is Mr. and Mrs. Hughes, Collins and Michael O'Connor, according to attorney Stephen DeBaun. The organization received non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service in December 1991.
Hughes said that the fund raising in the November/December newsletter was not new or a departure from prior procedures. "We've always had fund raising," he said. Donations are requested for copies of the books compiling messages from Conyers, Hughes said. The organization has also mailed out envelopes to supporters in the past to raise funds to put in roads at the site, he added.
The $10,000 amount is in this newsletter, Hughes said, because that is the cost of one of the satellite broadcasts. He said that the appeal brought in one donation of $10,000 from California.
Hughes also said that "the Lord has put Bolivia and Conyers together."
Fowler was invited to speak in Bolivia in 1993, Hughes said, and after hearing her speak, Rivas had a conversion experience. Hughes also said a statue in Bolivia has had unexplained phenomena, shedding tears and blood, and is believed by people there to be a sign from God linked to Fowler's visit. Fowler visited Bolivia again and on one visit was observed medically and psychologically to evaluate the authenticity of her prayer experiences. Dr. Ricardo Castañon, who did this evaluation, "was an atheist," Hughes said, but is now associated with Rivas and the Great Crusade of Love and Mercy.
Since her initial conversion, Rivas is reported to have received the stigmata during a visit to Conyers and to have written 900 pages of spiritual material in two weeks that have been published in Spanish with the approval of her local bishop, Hughes said.
The Conyers website lists both Fowler and Rivas as speakers at a Marian conference in Pittsburgh last October and on a program in Australia Dec. 18-20.
Following the end of the public apparitions in October, Hughes said Our Loving Mother's Children began the monthly rosary telecasts, but Fowler declined to come to the Farm for these broadcasts in November and December.
"In January, Catia got a message from Our Lord to come and help for five months ... Nancy left and would not come," he said. He characterized the dispute as stemming from human nature and said he believed jealousy was involved.
In February an airline strike prevented Rivas from reaching the U.S. and the Bolivian woman reportedly received a new message that she would not have to return since her efforts to help had not been accepted. "She won't be back," Hughes said.
However, Our Loving Mother's Children has also produced a new mission statement. The organization's "transition from apparitions" will include broadcasting the rosary on the 13th of each month from the Farm by satellite and on the Internet. This broadcast will also be linked to a "New Evangelization" effort and to the Great Crusade of Love and Mercy, the mission statement says.
Hughes said he did not consider the Great Crusade of Love and Mercy a "new direction." He said it would include praying the rosary, forming prayer groups and "living the messages" that had been given to Fowler since 1990.
Both Hughes and Fowler said that the relationship between the Conyers housewife with reported visions and the Catholic couple from Virginia who helped her for the past eight years had been close and supportive until now.
"I believe the apparitions are true. I believe Nancy is true. It is human stuff we are talking about," said Hughes.
Fowler said that "it is very difficult ... to dissociate yourself from an organization that has helped you over the years. I find it one of the most painful experiences."
"I have to protect what I have received ... I don't have any direction from heaven to be joined with any other apparition," Fowler said. "This is my life's work. Let us keep it pure."
Text of statement released by Nancy Fowler February 26, 1999
I have been associated with an organization, "Our Loving Mother's Children, Inc.," in the publication of messages that I have been receiving from Jesus, His Mother, Mary, Our Loving Mother, but I must disassociate myself from this organization. My total obedience has been, and will continue to be, to God through my Bishop. Recent developments in Our Loving Mother's Children, Inc. soliciting large sums of money and joining in an association with other groups, movements and/or individuals makes it contrary to the principles upon which I stand. I have never been associated with any other organizations, movements or individuals, and neither have I received any money from Our Loving Mother's Children, Inc. In order to be obedient to my Bishop, I have chosen to continue on the same path. I divest myself of interest in and to Our Loving Mother's Children, Inc. or from any individuals distributing my messages in writing or speaking for me or in any way using my name.
I am grateful to Robert "Bob" Hughes and Bernice "Bernie" Hughes, of Fairfax, Virginia, president and vice-president of Our Loving Mother's Children, Inc., and all the volunteers, for their help and support over the years. But I remain firm in my decision to keep pure the teachings of private revelations that I have received.