Husband and Father, founder of Caritas of Birmingham
Medjugorje visionary Marija, shares a light moment in the home of Terry Colafrancesco, during a visit in September 2014.
Terry Colafrancesco founded Caritas of Birmingham, a nonprofit that informs people about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, in 1986. Shortly thereafter, Terry Colafrancesco began writing a newsletter on the happenings at Medjugorje. Although he did not intend to continue with the newsletter, he witnessed the powerful effect that it had on the lives of Christians. By 1990, more than 120,000 households received the report. Spirited by the conversions achieved at Medjugorje, he felt called through prayer and sacrifice to bring the message to as many as possible.
A visionary of Medjugorje, Marija Lunetti, came to stay with Terry Colafrancesco and his wife in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1988 - an event that soon converted their home into a pilgrimage destination. Tens of thousands of individuals came to Birmingham to witness Our Lady through Marija, which resulted in an incredible number of conversions. Soon, people began calling Caritas “Little Medjugorje.” Through Caritas, he has allowed countless individuals to experience the apparitions of Our Lady.
In 1992, Terry Colafrancesco opened the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages, the 55,000 square foot mission building, which serves as a central headquarters for his mission. He additionally established a Mission House in Medjugorje that distributes, for free, printed materials about the messages produced by Caritas to pilgrims who come to the village to witness the apparitions first-hand.
His community, the Community of Caritas, continues to grow and incorporate new members. Caritas operates as a lay group under Canon Law of the Catholic Church and remains in good standing with the Birmingham Diocese and Bishop. To spread Our Lady's messages to as many as possible, Terry Colafrancesco has authored a number of books about Medjugorje and the role of Christianity in the United States today. Some of his titles include: Words from Heaven, The Patriotic Rosary, Changing History, Two Americas, and The Seven Novenas.
Terry Louis Colafrancesco was born into an Italian Catholic family with a rich heritage in Birmingham, Alabama in 1953.
Terry’s mother Mary Ellen would bake bread for the local parish priest and have it delivered by her sons every Friday to the church rectory. Terry recounts riding in the car with his mother, carrying a loaf of freshly baked bread wrapped in a towel. Mary Ellen would stop the car at the rectory of Blessed Sacrament church in Ensley, Alabama. Terry would get out of the car and knock on the door. Monsignor would answer, smile on seeing the bread and then take the loaf as he waved to Mary Ellen.
Terry’s father, Tony, was the son of a coal-miner, who was a tough Italian immigrant man renowned for his homeopathic medicine. Dr. Gianni, as he was called, Terry’s grandfather was a proud American citizen, and instilled in his children a sense of pride in American values. Terry’s father Tony was a man who led more by example and less by words. Having been born in a mining cave on a cold January night in Colorado, and tough like his father, Terry’s father Tony served his country in the South Pacific in World War II as part of the newly created air rescue squadrons, finding downed pilots at sea. After the war, Terry's father Tony, opened an appliance repair business in Birmingham, often helping the less fortunate in the poor neighborhoods of Birmingham. Growing up between these two examples of Christian living would have indelible marks on Terry’s life.
Becoming a family man himself, Terry married Annette Bailey in 1975, and together they have raised 6 boys and one girl with a strong sense of work ethic, compassion for the less fortunate, and seekers of truth. All their children are very successful in their respective careers.
Terry founded Caritas of Birmingham in 1986 for the purpose of spreading the Christian life. After having a profound experience in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina, where the Virgin Mary was reported to have been appearing to six youth, Terry realized the focus of Caritas of Birmingham was to promote solely the apparitions of Medjugorje. Today, Caritas of Birmingham is the largest Medjugorje center in the world, and the Christian community, the Community of Caritas lives and works on the site near Birmingham, Alabama.
“I’m just a ditch-digger.” These were the words that Terry Colafrancesco, the founder of Caritas of Birmingham has often used to refer to himself. Terry grew up in a home where stories of the Great Depression urged he and his siblings to be thrifty, and work hard to make a life for themselves. Their faith was a vital element of their upbringing. Faith was not something for show, but for something deeper; that drives men to be something beyond themselves in order to make the world a better place.
Seeing so many depravities taking place around him in the generation of the 50’s and 60’s, Terry made a bold personal decision that would set a course of direction for his life. At age 14, Terry made a vow never to drink alcohol. Growing up in an Italian home, this was no small decision. But, the clarity of mind it brought set him apart to be readied for a work that God would do through him years later. And while it brought about teasing by other kids in school, Terry brushed off their teasing and went about his way, knowing that what he did, he was doing for God. No doubt, such resolve would come into play many years later.
Throughout high school, Terry would often skip lunch and spend his time in the school library to learn everything he needed to know about the trade he wanted to learn and the business he wanted to start. He had an aversion to college, often saying, “Why do I need to go to college to go from the book, to the professor, to me? Why can’t I just go straight to the book instead?” Such simple logic would make a great man of business, and is one of the reasons that Caritas of Birmingham is so successful today.
Terry and his wife Annette, set out and founded Century Landscaping and Excavation in the late 70’s. Terry built his business one piece at a time. Terry’s father Tony, would often tell him that, “the best credit is bad credit” - meaning, that you never want to take out a loan, but pay as you go. Such financial advice taken from someone who had endured the hardships of the Great Depression would make the difference between success and failure. Terry recounted that once, early in his business career, when he was in need of money to pay a bill, he applied to his mother, Mary Ellen, for help. She refused to help him. Terry told his mother that he would pay her back right away and she flatly said no. Terry then worked extra hard to come up with the money to pay for the bill. Years later Terry would said, “My mother did me a favor by not helping me out and I've taught my kids very much the same way. I will teach them how to fly, but I won't fly for them.”
With a shovel and wheelbarrow, Terry and his wife Annette, scraped and scrounged every penny to put back into the company. He paid himself practically nothing, and put his money back into Century Landscape. Then, with enough patient industry, Terry bought his first dump truck. Terry said:
“I was so grateful for my first dump truck. I could run and pick up a load, dump it, then shovel it into a wheelbarrow, and wheel it over since I didn’t have a loader yet. It’s funny, I didn’t even complain about not having a loader to move the dirt, I was just grateful for the dump truck.”
Years of toil and struggle paid off when Century Landscaping eventually became the largest landscaping company in the region. Terry had dozens of pieces of equipment and almost one hundred employees. Terry was the first licensed tree surgeon in the State of Alabama, often being called upon when expert work was needed. His business was so successful, that the local Republican Party courted Terry to run for political office, but Terry did not want to be bogged down in politics.
Mejanomics, which stands for “Medjugorje Economics”, a show which broadcasts from Caritas of Birmingham every Thursday at 12 Noon Central Time, Terry Colafrancesco shares many of the valuable lessons learned through his life experience and the Biblical messages of Medjugorje. Tens of thousands listen to the Thursday broadcast and are making positive changes to their lives.
In the midst of business booming, his faith-life never wavered. He achieved business success by the age of 30, and was seriously looking at his life and his family that he desired to turn his business over to. It was his desire to build up a business and turn it over to his sons who would carry on the family work. As he started to pray more, and spend deep moments in prayer with God, he began to experience God’s closeness in a particular and powerful way.
On one particular day, Terry was on his way to a jobsite, and stopped to get gas at his shop. In a very clear way, he heard God ask him in his heart, “Do you want to leave your kids money, or a way to live?” And in his heart Terry answered God, “I want to give my children a way of life.”
After many years of prayer, Terry started Caritas of Birmingham in 1986 for the purpose of spreading the Christian life. Being free from debt, Terry was able to fund Caritas with his own money. After going to Medjugorje in July 1986, Terry changed the focus of Caritas to be solely devoted to Medjugorje.
In the meantime, in Medjugorje, Terry experienced a deep moment with God in prayer. He heard God deeply in his heart asking him to give up his business. Terry prayed deeply, knowing that he could not escape the probing of His God. Terry said:
“I loved my business. My wife and I built it from the ground up. It was what we intended to give to our kids. I was funding Caritas though my business, so I reasoned with God that I should keep it for that reason. The hardest part of God asking me to give up my business is that I knew that I could say no. I knew that God still loved me, even if I choose not to walk away from it. But God was asking me to give up my business in my free will. After 3 hours of intense, agonizing prayer, weeping, I gave God my yes, my full yes to walk away from my business. There are no words to describe what it was like to give up what I loved doing the most. But, I loved my God more than my business.”
Thus, Terry walked away from a business he built from the ground up, a business he loved. He gave his entire life to working for God.
Then in November 1988, Medjugorje visionary Marija, through a miraculous set of circumstances, came to his home. Our Lady in Medjugorje was only giving messages on the 25th of the month, but, when Marija came to Terry and Annette’s home in November 1988 to January 1989, Our Lady began giving messages everyday. In one of the messages Our Lady asked for a Community to be established. Today, the Caritas Community lives and works at the site near Terry’s home and assists in operating the mission of Caritas.
Medjugorje visionary Marija and Caritas founder Terry Colafrancesco share a playful exchange of words in front of thousands at Caritas’ Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages in 2011. Marija’s visit coincided with a dedication of the newly expanded motherhouse, which added an extra 25,000 square feet.
Caritas of Birmingham was national in the first 6 months of operation, and within one year, became an international organization. Today, Caritas of Birmingham is the largest Medjugorje center in the world, operating out of a 55,000 square foot facility, called the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages. They have a readership in 100 countries, and mail to over 120,000 households. A Mission House in Medjugorje, which opened in 1996, distributes materials in several languages free of charge. Caritas operates Medjugorje.com, acclaimed as the most extensive Medjugorje site in the world, which millions visit for research and to help their spiritual life. Caritas also operates BVM Caritas Medjugorje Pilgrimages, which Terry started in 1986, and is the oldest running pilgrimage group from the United States. Professor of Anthropology, Michael Murphy, University of Alabama said:
“As one of the first Medjugorje promoting groups formed in the United States, Caritas helped link Medjugorje and the United States...Caritas was instrumental in providing the infrastructure for pilgrimages to Medjugorje from the U.S.”
Terry Colafrancesco has arguably written more on the Medjugorje messages than anyone in the world, with hundreds of titles. Here are some of the more notable books by Terry Colafrancesco, who writes as a Friend of Medjugorje.
Words From Heaven
Terry Colafrancesco originally put together Words from Heaven in 1990. It is in it’s 15th edition and still remains the singular primary book for the research of the messages of Medjugorje. The Caritas website, Medjugorje.com features a message search based on Words From Heaven. You can order Words from Heaven from every major bookstore, Amazon.com or from the Medjugorje Shop here: http://shop.medjugorje.com/words-from-heaven-p/bf101.htm
Look What Happened While You Were Sleeping
Written in 2006, Look What Happened While You Were Sleeping, was an instant success, becoming a national bestseller quickly. Colafrancesco tells of the reasons why Christians are losing their freedoms today, and exposes the myths about climate change/global warming, evolution, and how the media is often used as propaganda. It was the first book of its kind to explain in clear understandable language the concepts and dangers of Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development. You can order Look What Happened While You Were Sleeping from every major bookstore, Amazon.com or from the Medjugorje Shop here: http://shop.medjugorje.com/look-what-happened-while-you-were-sleeping-p/bf105.htm - See also the official website at: http://www.lookwhathappenedwhileyouweresleeping.com
They Fired the First Shot 2012
A book of action, They Fired the First Shot 2012, was also a national bestseller, and explores the founding of America, the loss of liberty, and the simple plan on how to win it back. Never speaking from a soapbox, but instead from a keen knowledge of how governments work, and how Christians influence society, through They Fired the First Shot 2012, Terry Colafrancesco has inspired thousands across the U.S. and other countries with clear concise understanding, to make spiritual and physical decisions in their lives. Three conventions have been inspired by this book, as well as many other spin-off books by other authors. Intended not as a novel, but as an instruction manual, many have used They Fired the First Shot 2012 for their research, including for homilies and educational training. You can order They Fired the First Shot 2012 from every major bookstore, Amazon.com or from the Medjugorje Shop here: http://shop.medjugorje.com/they-fired-the-first-shot-p/bf110.htm - See also the official website at: http://www.theyfiredthefirstshot.com/