Terry Colafrancesco is a husband, father and Catholic patriot. He was born on April 24, 1953, in Birmingham, Alabama, to parents Tony and Mary Ellen Colafrancesco. He and his five siblings were raised in a strong Catholic-Italian family. His parents instilled in their children strong work ethics. Love of their Italian heritage and the Catholic faith filled their lively home.
Growing up, Terry, his siblings, and other children in the neighborhood looked forward to the early evening when their fathers would all return from work and sit together under an Elm Tree that shaded the yard next door. It was a time when children respected elders. These men were of different denominations, but all Christian, and Terry learned how to speak, how to evangelize and how to think, through these evenings under the Elm Tree. He was ingrained with, as he called it, “Elm Tree Philosophy,” and carries that influence with him still today.
While in high school, Terry began training horses and then started a tree surgeon business. After self-studying for the state exams, he became the first professionally licensed tree surgeon in the state of Alabama. He married his wife, Annette, in 1975, and had seven children—six sons and one daughter, with one son lost in a miscarriage. Today they have 11 grandchildren.
A Successful Businessman
Throughout school, Terry would often skip lunch and spend his time in the school library to study what he needed to know about the trade he wanted to learn and the business he wanted to start. He had a deep aversion to college and had a passion to be a self-employed businessman. While his tree surgeon business was very successful, it was not profitable enough to raise a family. He sold the equipment he had acquired, paid all his bills and started all over again without a penny to his name. But he called those four years of his tree surgeon business his “college education,” and began a new endeavor—building a successful excavation/landscaping company. Hard work and long hours paid off so that by the time he was in his mid-to-late 20’s, he, his wife and young family were living financially comfortable. He had built what he called a live-in-die-in home. He had bought several tracks of property and never had a mortgage or debt. They were set for life.
Founder of the Largest Medjugorje Center in the World
Being at a place in his life where he could financially support a nonprofit organization, Terry initiated the process in 1986 to form an organization to promote and propagate the Catholic faith. He named it Caritas of Birmingham. A means to that end was the start of a publication of the same name, The Caritas of Birmingham Newsletter. While the focus of Caritas was to spread Catholicism, the heart of the mission changed course the more he became involved with a little-known phenomenon that was just beginning to be spoken of in small Catholic circles throughout the United States and around the world.
The phenomenon began in 1981, when six children reportedly began seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary, in the small village of Medjugorje, in a remote mountainous region of former Yugoslavia. The experiences of the Medjugorje visionaries was being reported as similar to what the three visionaries of Fatima experienced; whose apparitions took place in Portugal in 1917. Over time, the Virgin Mary began giving messages to the children in Medjugorje with instructions to relay them first to the parish and then to the world. Terry decided he wanted to see for himself whether there was any truth to these claims.
A Life Changing Experience
Within three months of starting Caritas, Terry made his first pilgrimage to Medjugorje in July 1986. He had a profound and life-changing experience that directed his life and that of his family onto a new and unexpected path. He was one among millions of pilgrims who would flood into Medjugorje within the next years. The more he became involved with Medjugorje, the deeper his conviction grew that Medjugorje was to become his life’s mission, and also the mission of Caritas of Birmingham. After two years of going to Medjugorje, he walked away from his business and devoted himself full time to Caritas to spread and propagate Medjugorje and Our Lady’s plans to change the direction of the world, for the salvation of the world. He formed personal friendships with the visionaries, their families, the priests and villagers of Medjugorje, as well as made alliances with those who had been similarly impacted by Medjugorje and were devoting their lives to spreading Medjugorje in their own geographical locations.
For the next several years, Terry made many pilgrimages to Medjugorje, at times as frequent as every two weeks. At this same time, an explosion of interest ignited across the United States of those seeking to learn about Medjugorje. The readership of the Caritas Newsletter, that had started off with just a few hundred people, quickly expanded, spreading to people of faith from all across the country and to other nations. By January 1987, six months after it began, Caritas of Birmingham was a national organization that would become an international organization within one year, with followers increasing exponentially. By early 1990 over 120,000 households were on the mailing list to receive his newsletters. Within a few years, Caritas of Birmingham was well on the way to becoming the largest Medjugorje center in the world as well as the second largest organization, in the category of nonprofits, in the state of Alabama. Caritas has maintained that status even up to the present time.
Terry’s strategic and innovative business sense applied to the mission is behind the well-developed and comprehensive infrastructure that set Caritas of Birmingham apart from other Medjugorje centers, almost from the beginning. But just as important, his God-given gift to break open the meaning of the messages of Our Lady in a way uniquely his own and write in the language of the common man won for him an increasingly loyal following. He has never signed his name to anything he wrote, wanting to “live in humility” and to “witness with his life.” He has never taken royalties, though his books have gone into the millions. He bypassed the salary the board voted for, preferring to take only a minimum salary in order to strengthen and enrich the mission. He was opposed to building the mission on his own name and became known only as “A Friend of Medjugorje,” as all his books and writings, from 1986 to the present day, testify. Though, from the beginning of Caritas, it was never his desire or intention to write for Caritas’ newsletter long term, witnessing the positive effects from people across the world in ever increasing testimonies of how his witness, put into writings, was leading to deep conversion, he came to realize and was the last to be convinced, that this was part of his calling.
Terry, at his core, is not just a problem identifier like so many voices; rather he is a solution identifier, not by instinct, but by inspiration through prayer and his own life experiences. he has been successful in leading hearts back to God also through a multitude of spiritual projects, events and spiritual movements he initiated. But more significantly, he has been successful in leading people to change their lives and their way of living. There are countless Catholics and Christians today who are teaching the truths of the Church because of the lack of true religious education and training for decades in our nation. However, despite becoming more exposed to the truths of the faith, few people are actually led to change their lives. Terry’s influence is distinctive in that he impacts people to radically change their “way of living,” by changing their “way of thinking” about the world around them. It is a “new way of life” that is being born through the messages of Our Lady and is the future way of life that Our Lady is moving all mankind towards.
As Terry’s understanding of Medjugorje expanded over time, his talks, radio broadcasts and writings increasingly and profoundly connected the “spiritual realm to the physical realm,” a term he first wrote and popularized in many writings, going back over 20 years, enabling people to more clearly see the alignment of the two and the impact Our Lady’s daily apparitions* were having upon every aspect of our lives. Terry has never shied away from tackling difficult subjects and cultural issues. His thoughts and reasonings often go contrary to “political correctness,” the direction of the culture, and even, at times, those who are in the structure of the Church, but he will not back down from what needs to be said, even when it hurts him. While many are grateful for his unwavering moral leadership, he is the cause of separation for others. He has known severe persecution, but he does not let that stop him from speaking the truth and fulfilling the will of God in his life.
Through prayer and studying Our Lady’s words over many years, Terry’s writings resonate with a prophetic consciousness that is also unique to his writings. He is able to break open and pull thoughts and inspirations from Our Lady’s messages that no one else does who is involved with Medjugorje. It is part of his unique charism and is what makes his works so popular among so many people. Much of what he has written in the past has come to pass, just as he foresaw, often years ago, giving credence to what he says today of what he believes will happen in the future.
Terry has become known through the many different avenues of the mission, and as the mission grew, so too the invitations from around the world asking that he come to speak about Medjugorje, his experiences with Our Lady and his understanding of Her messages. He has traveled the world over, in answer to those invitations— from the Far East and across Europe, to the nations of North and South America, as well as throughout the United States. He has traveled overseas over 250 times in the past 34 years.
The Visionary Comes to Birmingham
Five years into the apparitions, by 1986, the visionaries had already been put through the gauntlet, from persecution from Communist police, threats to their lives and families, disbelief and rejection from their bishop and many in the Church while many other bishops and priests supported and believed them, loss of normal family life and their years of youth, dealing with an insatiable desire of tens of thousands and then millions of pilgrims who descended upon Medjugorje wanting to meet them, being the subjects of ongoing scientific, psychological and theological testing and investigation, among so many other sacrifices they made. Terry entered the world of the visionaries and saw first-hand the cost and the sacrifice of their personal lives and families. Their witness of how they handled injustice with joy and the heavy crosses they carried with grace convinced him of their authenticity, among many other things.
Terry’s experience is not as a spectator, but as one who has been, and continues to be, up-close and personal with the events of Medjugorje and the people themselves, many times, right in the middle of the events; a first-hand witness. Of the six visionaries, Terry, and his wife Annette, grew particularly close to Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti and her family. They have a deep and profound friendship, literally as close as family, covering a period of nearly four decades. Marija has come to the United States on many occasions to visit Terry and his family, often saying Alabama is her second home. Those visits have been both private and public, and when public, tens of thousands attend the apparitions, experiencing a deep and profound encounter with the undeniable presence of the Mother of Jesus, and the Queen of Peace.
Marija holds a significant role in the Medjugorje apparitions in that she is the receiver of a monthly message given by the Virgin Mary on behalf of the world. Every 25th of the month, a new message is received by Marija. These monthly apparitions started on January 25, 1987 and continue through the present. Through these messages given on the 25th of each month, Our Lady desires to lead the world back to Her Son, Jesus, back to holiness, and to prepare the world for the future.
Founder of the Community of Caritas
In 1989, Terry founded the Community of Caritas, a community of families and single men and women consecrated to Our Lady and Her plans of peace. The Caritas Community is the main labor force for the mission of Caritas of Birmingham. They live close to the soil, in an agrarian way of life and in simplicity, producing much of their own food for their sustenance so as not to overburden the mission. However, the mission is their primary work. Their way of life brings to life the messages of Our Lady, as lived by the witness of their founder, Terry, and is distinctive and unlike any other community in the Medjugorje world. Many who visit the Caritas Community, even those who are not Medjugorje believers, or even Christian, are moved by the witness of life the Community lives and are often led to belief in the mission.
The Place of Caritas
Caritas of Birmingham has become a beloved pilgrimage site in its own right, surrounded by the beautiful setting of the Appalachian Mountains, in a valley that has been consecrated from the beginning to the Virgin Mary. This has been due to the sensitivity that Terry carries with him from his early days of being an excavator/landscaper and an instinctive ability to create sacred spaces. In his book, Churches of Alabama, author Kurt Niland, wrote:
“…One of the visionaries from Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, who purportedly received messages from the Virgin Mary in her home country, visited Alabama and witnessed another apparition in a field in Sterrett, drawing even more visitors to the state from all stretches of the world. In short, there emanates within Alabama a Catholic presence and voice arguably as strong as the Vatican itself, and to wonder how Alabama became a destination for millions, now and in the future, of Catholic pilgrims is to contemplate something of a miracle.”
The Cross for the Soul of America
Terry built a sacred monument, a large stone Cross on a mountain overlooking a wooded valley consecrated to God many years ago. The Cross was built for “The Soul of America” as testament to the spiritual foundation of this nation to the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The Cross was built and dedicated in the year 2013 and has already become a national treasure to pilgrims from around the United States as a sacred place to pray for the protection over our great nation, her leaders, and the holiness of her citizens. It is a place where we seek the blessing of God upon ourselves, our families and our nation.
One of the Finest Print Shops in the Southeast
Terry put together a state-of-the-art, ten-million-dollar printing facility, and while not the largest printing facility in the area, venders of press supplies have said it is one of the finest print shops in the entire southeast. It includes a book-binding machine that can bind up to 50,000 books a day. Terry’s planning is to be ready to propagate the messages of Our Lady in the time of the release of the three Secrets* that have been promised as God’s final call to move the world to conversion. It will be a time when every man on earth will be under conviction to accept Our Lady’s invitation to convert.
Longest Running Pilgrimages from North America to Medjugorje
Terry was instrumental in establishing the original infrastructure for bringing pilgrims from North America to Communist Yugoslavia, and on to Medjugorje, back in 1986. He started BVM/Caritas Pilgrimages that same year and today it is the longest running uninterrupted pilgrimages to Medjugorje from the North American continent.
Caritas Website: Medjugorje.com (or mej.com)
Terry conceived and directed the formation of the #1 website in the world for Medjugorje. His site for Caritas has no equal. Through prayer, fasting and sacrifice they turned Medjugorje.com to heights not achieved by any other compared to those who are in the same mission’s work. Caritas’ website, Medjugorje.com [Mej.com], globally ranks well within the top 1% of website traffic throughout the world. Mej.com not only ranks within the top 1%, but within the top 5 hundredths (.0005) of 1% for world traffic. Out of 1,295,973,827 websites, Mej.com is listed well under the first million websites. Medjugorje.com has over 2½ million lines of programming code. For all the capabilities and technologies integrated in the cherished and super sophisticated F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter Jet, it has about 1.7 million lines of code.2 That’s a third less than Medjugorje.com! It is not an exaggeration in stating that Medjugorje.com is in a class of its own. Terry has always been deeply serious about the future and being ready for the whole world when it turns to Our Lady through the events foretold in Medjugorje.
Early Supporter of Donald J. Trump
Terry was one of the earliest and most vocal supporters of Donald J. Trump, when Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States in 2015. This open support for Trump brought him severe backlash not only from the Left, but also from the larger progressive Catholic world. Among his greatest battles is confronting the blindness of Catholics concerning Trump. Terry has boldly, without apology, stepped forward in his radio broadcasts and writings, to proclaim that the man of the hour, the King Cyrus of our time, the one the Blessed Mother has chosen for this moment and the only man alive who can change the world’s course away from total destruction, through the prayers and fasting of believers everywhere, is Donald J. Trump. Terry has influenced a great many people, worldwide, to support and stand with President Trump.
Short History of Persecution
“So Too Shall You Be Persecuted“
As with anyone in a position such as Terry holds, he has had his share of detractors, slanders made against him, and attempts to derail the mission he founded. Realizing early on that to focus on defending oneself diminishes the energy that is better utilized in being placed in the mission. Detractors “distract” one from the mission and it is better, in the long run, to keep moving the mission forward as success and growth of a mission, in the end, will outpace sour grapes. The best revenge is success. However, there are times when it is necessary to fight back and defend oneself and one’s mission against unjust charges and allegations.
In the late 1990’s—early 2000’s, a multi-millionaire businessman from California, Phillip J. Kronzer, who was passionately anti-Medjugorje, mounted attacks against several Medjugorje missions and important individuals associated with Medjugorje, believing Medjugorje to be a worldwide cult. In 2002, Terry Colafrancesco found himself and the mission of Caritas of Birmingham in Kronzer’s crosshairs, being the head of the largest Medjugorje center with worldwide influence in the Medjugorje movement. Kronzer used his wealth to file several lawsuits against Terry and Caritas in different states in an effort to break the mission financially. At the same time, he created a system of disinformation to turn supporters away from Caritas. The Caritas mailing list had been stolen and slanderous and falsified documents, written and funded by Kronzer, were being sent to Caritas supporters. He created websites, paid for syndicated radio spots, started blogs, gave money for affidavits against Terry, among many other things in his unrelenting efforts to spread disinformation and destroy the mission.
Six years battling Kronzer ended with several lawsuits being thrown out of court, and Kronzer being held in Contempt of Court, both civilly and criminally, in December 2006 for refusing to pay the judgment made against him of $2,000,000.00 ($1,000,000.00 each to Terry and Caritas of Birmingham) for the personal damage he had caused to Terry and Caritas. He was also ordered to take down any websites, blogs, etc., that continued to defame Terry and the mission. Kronzer fled the country to the Bahamas after the judge ordered him to turn his passport in to county authorities. He was ultimately incarcerated in the Bahamas when found he had overextended his time allowed in their country. From that time on his whereabouts were not known, though he had made it back to the United States. It was later learned that Kronzer died alone and penniless in 2014 .
Caritas’ Financial Structure & Stats
Since the non-profit of Caritas began in 1986, Terry has raised well over $100 million for the mission. Additionally, he has 10 books that have reached “best seller” status, selling several million copies over the past 20 years. Although entitled to royalties from these writings, Terry has never taken any. Decades ago, the board of Caritas strongly recommended a six-figure salary to Terry as fair-market value. Terry had no debt and owned his lands and home before founding Caritas. Having no debt enabled Terry to live on a minimal salary that has seen no increase since 1990 in order to live “a witness.” It is Terry’s desire to witness to the very wealthy what one can do with their wealth. Instead of enriching himself, Terry has chosen to enrich the mission of Caritas. His financial philosophy for all the endeavors of the mission of Caritas is simple: stay out of debt. He only makes a move for the mission to expand if God gives the money. It may not be the only mission of its kind structured this way; however, it is very rare to find others like it.
Caritas Ranks in the Top Tier of Non-Profits
Year after year since its beginning, Caritas has been in the top tier of financial efficiency for nonprofits in the United States. The charts below, show more about the financial efficiency of Caritas of Birmingham.
* The daily apparitions have continued as of October 2020.
* The Virgin Mary gave the six visionaries in Medjugorje 10 secrets each. Some of the secrets are the same, while others are of a private nature. Three of the Secrets have to do with chastisements that will impact the whole world and will be God’s final call to convert, while at the same time, will prove to the world that the apparitions were real. In 2016, Mirjana who is one of the six visionaries, revealed that we have entered the time of the Secrets. When they begin to manifest, it will send a shockwave through the world and change the direction of the lives of the people still living.
2 Replies to “The Bigger Story”
I read “They Fired The First Shot” many years ago and it was a real eye-opener. Absolutely love this book.
Have followed Caritas since the beginning days. Went to Medjugorge with my brother in 1989. Was a monthly contributor for many years. I’m reading “Blind” right now. God Bless Caritas!