Robert J. Fox

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Fr. Robert J. Fox
Fox in Portugal, 1992
Born(1927-12-24)December 24, 1927
DiedNovember 26, 2009(2009-11-26) (aged 81)
United States

Robert J. Fox (December 24, 1927 – November 26, 2009) was an American priest of the Roman Catholic faith. He was a prolific author of religious books, and appeared on many Roman Catholic television programs and conferences. Fox also served as a diocesan priest for several rural towns in South Dakota, he was the Director of the International Fatima Family Apostolate and Youth for Fatima Pilgrimages , editor of the Immaculate Heart Messenger, and his writings appeared frequently in other Catholic publications in the US. He began the Marian Congress in the United States which is held annually and attended by thousands.[1]

Early life[edit]

Fox was born in Watertown, South Dakota on December 24, 1928,[2] his parents, Aloysius and Susie Emma Fox, were farmers.[1] Fox, the youngest of eight siblings, was raised in a religious family, and he later recalled "I never remembered when I did not want to be a priest."[1][3][4] His father died while Fox was still a baby and he grew up working with his siblings to preserve the farm throughout the Great Depression.[1] Before attending school he was encouraged by his mother to study to become a priest like their local pastor Fr. William O'Meara.[1] Fox stated that his "mother put the thought in my mind" of joining the priesthood before the first grade, "She mentioned it only two times in my life, but it stuck."[4] He recalled going with her to town when she would buy groceries and let him go where he pleased and that he "would go [to] the Catholic Church and genuflect and spend time before Jesus. Even then I could feel the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle; that drew me to the priest-hood."[4]


Fox attended Immaculate Conception elementary school which was run by Franciscan nuns.[1] There Fox learnt of Padre Pio (whose physical wounds were held by many Catholics to be an example of the miraculous charism of the stigmata) this further inspired him to pursue the priesthood.[1]

He went on to attend Watertown High School a public school.[1] Fox later recalled his continued interest in learning about the Catholic faith during this time "We didn't have a Catholic high school in Watertown, but our family did receive the National Catholic Register. Msgr. William Smith used to have beautiful articles explaining the faith. I would wait for it to arrive in the mail every Tuesday and I would read it cover to cover."[4]

In his senior year Fox suffered a farm accident with a hay rake which broke his leg and even endangered his life. Recovering from the injuries Fox was removed from farm work and during the reflection and study that occurred at that time Fox solidified his decision to become a priest.[1] After High School graduation Fox studied from 1947 to 1950 at St John's University, an all-male Benedictine liberal arts college and a center of liturgical development in rural Minnesota.[1] Fox credited his reading the National Catholic Register for being able to score 17th out of 350 incoming college freshman in a religious placement exam given by Saint John's despite most of the other students having attended Catholic high schools.[4] Fox recalled the incident to a report adding "In those days St. John's taught the traditional Catholic faith."[4]

After two terms at Saint John's Fox transferred to St Paul Seminary, there he took classes and gathered with the other students to watch Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's television program on the Seminary's television set (then a new technology).[1] Fox graduated from Seminary in 1955.


Fox was ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood on April 24, 1955 at the Cathedral of St Joseph in the Diocese of Sioux Falls by Bishop William O. Brady,[1][3][4] he went on to serve the Catholic Parishes of Yankton, Milbank, Waubay, Bristol, Mobridge, Hoven, Redfield and Alexandria, in South Dakota.[2]

After being ordained, Fox served as an Associate Pastor in several congregations where his encouraged him to be a writer. Letters and articles he sent to Catholic publications were published and he soon became a weekly columnist for the National Catholic Register and wrote regularly for a number of other publications.

Fox's first assignment was as an assistant priest in Millbank, South Dakota in 1955, he was transferred to Hoven, South Dakota's St. Anthony's Parish in January 1959, by August he was sent as an associate pastor to Yankton, South Dakota's Sacred Heart parish; the new Bishop Lambert. A. Hoch moved Fox to Bristol, South Dakota's St. Anthony Parish in 1961, where he took on the job of main pastor for the first time. In 1965 he was sent to St. Joseph's Parish in Mobridge, South Dakota. By 1969 he returned to St. Lawrence in Milbank. In 1971 he was sent to Redfield, South Dakota's St. Bernard Parish where he served for twelve years.[3]

While Fox was serving the Bristol parish his bishop was attending Vatican II. After the council's promulgation of the Decree on Ecumenism Fox received permission by his bishop to hold an ecumenical Advent prayer with three Protestant denominations, over six hundred attended and news of the event was picked up by the national media, with Fox being called a "new breed" of priest.[1]

Responding to the Council's call for a greater commitment to Catholic catechesis, Fox increased his efforts to work with youth. Fox maintained a conservative reading of the documents of Vatican II, but soon encountered those who had a more liberal reading of them which Fox held were watering down the truth of the Catholicism. In response to this he wrote "Religious Education; Its Effects, Its Challenges Today"; this was popular among the conservative element within the Catholic Church in America but was opposed by the liberal element. Notably in Milbank were a pastor attempted to implement ideas from his book into a Catholic school and was opposed by the school board and principal.[1] Fox, troubled over the conflict rising from his work, was able to maintain his commitment to a conservative reading of Vatican II with the support of Cardinal Wright.[1] Fox soon found himself defending a conservative position on aspects of the Catholic priesthood including celibacy.[1]

Cardinal John Wright the Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome contacted Fox in 1971 congratulating him on his writing and requesting six of his books which he incorporated into the General Catechetical Directory the following year.[3] Encouraged Fox went on to a prolific career as an author of over 50 books. In 2005, he published an autobiography A Priest is a Priest Forever that coincided with his fiftieth anniversary in the priesthood.

In gratitude for the honor of Cardinal Wright's request, Fox built the first shrine commemorating the Virgin Mary in Redfield in 1972. Fox who had always had a deep belief in the Catholic doctrines concerning Mary was inspired by the statements from Vatican II expounding on these doctrines and by the arrival of the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima statue at the diocese of Sioux Falls in 1974;[1] that same year Fox took his first pilgrimage group on a six-week tour to Our Lady of Fatima in Fátima, Portugal, a pilgrimage site he would return to often later in life often to lead tour groups.[1][2] Fox later told a reporter that at Fatima "I asked Our Lady, 'What do you want of me?' Those were always the first words spoken by Lucia when Our Lady appeared to her. I had the overwhelming conviction that Our Lady wanted me to teach the fullness of the Catholic faith to young people wherever I could using the Fatima message as the vehicle in my instruction."[4]

Upon returning to the United States he produced a tape series for the World Apostolate of Fatima.[1] Fox was very active in promoting Catholic Marian doctrines and established Marian Shrines in many of the parishes he worked at,[1] he served as the editor of the quarterly magazine Immaculate Heart Messenger. In 1975 Fox led a Holy Year Pilgrimage through Fatima to Rome and developed the idea to make a Youth Pilgrimage program to Fatima run like a retreat; this was the beginning of his Youth for Fatima Pilgrimages which travelled there annually in two separate groups divided by gender.[1]

Responding to Pope John Paul's November 22, 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio[3] and with the 1985 encouragement of the Pontifical Council for the Laity [4] Fox started the Fatima Family Apostolate in 1986, he served as its first director and as the editor of its newsletter. He became chairman of a Fatima Youth Seminar in Detroit and founded a youth division of the World Apostolate of Fatima, he also wrote "Catholic Truth for Youth" at this time. Fox also gave many conferences on Catholic Mariological teachings worldwide including at Fatima, Australia, Poland, Syria, Mexico, Italy, and the United States.[1]

During the 1975 pilgrimage in Europe, Fox met Brother Gino Burresi of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary at San Vittorino, Italy. "Brother Gino" had physical wounds that many Catholics held to be an example of the miraculous charism of the stigmata. Fox was deeply impressed with Brother Gino and the two established a rapport, Fox later wrote a biography about him entitled "Call of Heaven".[1] Travelling to Venice during this pilgrimage Fox visited what is believed to be the crypt of Mark the Evangelist. Fox reported while at the tomb hearing "a voice within" telling him to conduct pilgrimages.[3]

To encourage young men to accept the vocation of the Catholic priesthood Fox created media to assist their decision. With increasing notability due to his work on the priesthood Fox was given permission to use his priestly formation program to personally instruct young men, this endeavor was named the "Sons of the Immaculate Heart" and in 1982 with the encouragement of his bishop and the support of Cardinal Pironio, head of the Congregation for Religious, Fox had seven candidates living with him at his parish in Redfield, South Dakota.[1] At this time Fox also used his familiarity with media to create a catechism course called "Sharing the Faith", he also continued to do his parish work, writing, and lead Fatima pilgrimages.[1]

One of Fox's speaking engagements took him to Moscow where he met the Archbishop of Moscow and the Byzantine Patriarch Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz; as a gift to the Russian people, Fox presented the Archbishop a statue of Our Lady of Fatima "with Our Lady's assurance that Russia will be converted and 'In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.'"[1]

In 1984 on a trip to Fatima Fox collapsed with severe pneumonia that threatened his life and destroyed his voice.[1][3] By Bishop Paul Dudley's order the Sons of the Immaculate Heart were disbanded.[1] Fox was sent to the small parish of Immaculate Conception in Waubay, South Dakota to regain his strength and relearn how to talk.[1] During this period he wrote "Immaculate Heart of Mary" expounding on the work of Louis de Montfort (held to be a saint by the Roman Catholic Church).[1] Fox also built his second shrine to Mary while at Waubay.[3]

In 1985 Fox arrived at St. Mary of Mercy parish in Alexandria, South Dakota and began building a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima on a block of donated land held to be near the center of North America; the shrine expanded to be the "Fatima Family Shrine" and includes "areas dedicated to, besides Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts plus angels adoring the Holy Eucharist as well as Saint Joseph, and the Christ Child blessing the world plus a Divine Mercy Shrine."[3]

In September 1987 Fox hosted the first Marian Congress in America at Alexandria[1] (it was thereafter held annually in June with an average attendance of 8,000). Among the Catholic notables that have spoken at Marian Congresses are Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Father John Corappi, Mother Angelica, Father Harold Cohen and Jeff Cavins.[3] In addition Administrating Bishops of Fatima, Portugal have attended the Congresses - Bishop Alberto Amaral (who dedicated the "Fatima Family shrine" in 1987) and his successor Bishop Serafim S. Ferreira e Silva.[3]

Retirement and EWTN[edit]

Fox retired to Hanceville, Alabama where he offered daily Mass at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, part of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. In retirement Fox became deeply involved in the Roman Catholic media network EWTN[2] Among Fox's numerous television and radio appearances are several Mother Angelica Live Shows; an appearance on Johnette Benkovic's The Abundant Life; EWTN Doug Keck's Bookmark; Daily Mass; WEWN shortwave radio and Sirius Satellite Radio; Relevant Radio, he continued to publish and remained editor of the Immaculate Heart Messenger Magazine.[1]

In 2008 John C. Preiss, president of the FFA, encouraged Fox to move the FFA headquarters to Hanceville, AL. Mr. Preiss built a 4,000 sq ft. facility that comprised a gift shop, conference room and storage for Fr. Fox's many books; the facility is known as the Fatima Family Center and has a Fatima Shrine, 14 ft crucifix and a pro-life shrine on the grounds.[1]


After suffering with cancer for an extended period of time, Fox died in Hanceville, Alabama on November 26, 2009. John C. Preiss was chosen by Father Fox to continue his mission of promoting the message of Fatima and family life. John, who was present during Fox's last moments said he died a peaceful and holy death.[2]


Robert J. Fox published books, including:

  • Religious Education: Its Effects, Its Challenges Today, Daughters of St. Paul, 1972.
  • The Catholic Prayerbook, Our Sunday Visitor, 1974.
  • Renewal for All God's People, Our Sunday Visitor, 1975.
  • Charity, Morality, Sex and Young People, Our Sunday Visitor, 1975.
  • The Marian Catechism, Our Sunday Visitor, 1976.
  • Saints and Heroes Speak, Our Sunday Visitor, 1977.
  • A Prayer Book for Young Catholics, Our Sunday Visitor, 1977.
  • Principles of spiritual growth]: Phase 2 : module on guilt (Genesis 2 bridges the gap between the old and the new), Intermedia Foundation - 1978
  • Teenagers and Purity; Teenagers and Going Steady; Teenagers Looking toward Marriage, St. Paul Editions, 1978.
  • Ten sermons on the Mother of God,: In light of Vatican II and Our Lady of Fatima, with addendum: Four articles on Communism and the Church, AMI Press - 1978
  • Catholic Truth for Youth, Ave Maria Press, 1978.
  • A World at Prayer, Our Sunday Visitor, 1979.
  • A Catechism of the Catholic Church: Two Thousand Years of Faith and Tradition, Franciscan Herald, 1980.
  • A Catholic Prayer Book, Our Sunday Visitor, 1980
  • Rediscovering Fatima, Our Sunday Visitor, 1982.
  • Prayerbook for Catholics, Christendom Press 1982
  • The Call of Heaven: Life of Stigmatist of San Vittorino, Father Gino, Christendom Publications, 1982.
  • The Mary Book, Mother of Evangelism, Fatima Family Apostolate
  • The call of heaven: Bro. Gino, stigmatist, Christendom Publications, 1982.
  • A Prayer Book for Young Catholics, Our Sunday Visitor, 2nd ed., 1982.
  • Jacinta of Fatima: Her Life As She Might Tell It, Ami Intl Pr, 1982
  • St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Life As She Might Tell It, Ami Intl Pr, 1982
  • St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort: His Life As He Might Tell It, A M I Press, 1983
  • Fatima Today, Christendom Publications, 1983.
  • The Catholic Faith, Our Sunday Visitor, 1983.
  • Opus Sanctorum Angelorum:, AMI Press - 1983
  • The Work of the Holy Angels, AMI International, 1984.
  • Family Bonding Through Discipline, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1987.
  • Families, Seedbeds for Vocations, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1987.
  • Blessed Jacinta and Francisco, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1987.
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary: True Devotion, Our Sunday Visitor, 1986.
  • Guidance for Future Priests, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • A Handbook on Guadalupe, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • Until Death Do Us Part, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • National Children's Day to Honor Our Lady: Second Sunday of October : a handbook for parents, teachers and pastors, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1988.
  • St. Joseph Promise, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • True Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • Marian Manual, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • First Saturdays, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • To Russia with Love, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1989.
  • The Gift of Sexuality: A Guide for Young People, Our Sunday Visitor, 1989.
  • Fox-Sight: Telling the vision of Robert J. Fox, Our Sunday Visitor, 1989.
  • Mary's White League for Children, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990.
  • Illustrated Rosary Meditations for Children, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990.
  • Protestant Fundamentalism and Born Again Catholic, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990.
  • Fatima Today - The Third Millennium, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1990,2002.
  • Mary Book: Mother of Evangelism, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • Only Heroic Catholic Families Will Survive, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • Catechism of Church History, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • The World and Work of the Holy Angels, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1991.
  • Covenant With Jesus, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1992.
  • Kolbe St. of the Immaculata, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1993.
  • A Man Called Francis, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1996.
  • Mary Through the Ages, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1996.
  • A Young Catholic's Apology for the Faith, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1995.
  • Jesus - Light of the World, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1997.
  • Catechism on Mary and the Pope Who Changed the World, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1998.
  • Manual of Prayers, Our Sunday Visitor 1998
  • Fundamentals of Faith, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1999.
  • Mary in Mid-America Shrine Book, Fatima Family Apostolate, 1999.
  • Documents on Fatima & Memoirs of Sister Lucia, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2000.
  • The Intimate Life of Sister Lucia, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2001.
  • Light from the East - Miracles of Our Lady of Soufanieh, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2002.
  • Reclaiming Your Children for the Faith , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2003.
  • Catechism in Poetry , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2003.
  • Messages from the Heart of Your Mother, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2004.
  • A Priest is a Priest Forever - Autobiography, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2005.
  • Ray Likes to Pray, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2006.
  • Fatima is Forever, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2006.
  • Masculinity: The Gentle Man , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2007.
  • Eucharist: Heaven and Earth Unite , Fatima Family Apostolate, 2008.
  • Mary Teaches the Faith at Fatima, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2009.

External sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag John Janaro. "Father Robert J. Fox". EWTN.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Father Robert Fox". Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan. December 1, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Fr. Robert J. Fox".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Fatima Apostle". National Catholic Register. January 28, 2001. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014.