SOM (Servants of Mary) History
In 1987, Ed & Pat Heinz purchased a 120-year old farm house situated on 50 acres of land in Windsor, Ohio in Ashtabula County. As parents of nine children, they considered using the farm as a Catholic youth camp, but the farm was in terrible shape and much work had to be accomplished before the family could even live in the house. With a clear purpose in mind, the family pitched in and started to fix up the farm and fields. In 1990, however, misfortune struck and several private investments soured due to the weakened economy and their dream began to unravel. The bank foreclosed on the mortgage and they were forced to file bankruptcy…and leave the farm behind.
A New Light in England
The family was disappointed, but their faith was not shaken. They did not blame God for their misfortune. As Ed and Pat look back on this tragedy, they credit a pilgrimage to Medjugorje as the reason their faith never waivered. “No matter how bad things seemed to be, we trusted that Our Lord and Our Lady would take care of us,” Pat relates. “We submitted to Our Lord’s will and became more dependent than ever on His Divine Providence.”
With Ed’s solid background in nuclear engineering they started a new consulting and construction business and soon the family prospered. But everyone, especially the children, longed to return to the farm in Windsor, Ohio. Ed and Pat told the children that if they wanted the farm back they would have to pray to Jesus and Mary, and that only Our Lord could possibly restore their family farm. Setting hope against all odds during a visit to the States, Pat returned briefly to the farm and buried a statue of Saint Joseph and a medal of Saint Benedict on the property.
Back in England, the family started a fervent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. They took advantage of each opportunity to pray before Our Lord’s Eucharistic presence in the tabernacle. Carl and Rachael who were three and four years old thought it was normal to stop at every Catholic Church along the way. Upon entering a church, the children would always head directly to the tabernacle and implore Jesus to give the farm back to them.
One winter day while talking with friends after mass, Carl was running around as a child does and Pat said to go talk to Jesus at the Nativity scene. He obediently approached. Carl later expressed an extreme need to go back to the farm… when questioned by Pat, he said that day he was in church, “I wasn’t talking to Jesus. I was talking to his Mother and she said we should go back to the farm and wait”.
Return of the Farm
Across the Atlantic, the farm sat vacant for two years. The bank had a hard time selling the property as multiple offers fell through. Finally, at the end of January, 1992, the bank auctioned the farm in a public Sheriff ’s sale. A third party heard of the Heinz’ situation, intervened and gave Ed and Pat an option to purchase the farm. God had answered their prayers in a dramatic fashion. Pat and the kids moved back to the farm on February 2, 1992, two years to the day from when they left in 1990. While Ed remained in England to continue his work for the next year and a half, he commuted between the United States and England. Through Our Lord’s generosity, the profits from the company retired the farm debt in less than one year.
Back in the States
Now back on the farm, Pat found herself with a dilapidated old house in which nothing worked. The house needed new bathrooms and kitchen, but Pat insisted that the first order of business was to build a room for Our Lord; a chapel right in the middle of the house. She maintained that since God had restored their home, He deserved the first room. Although this made little practical sense (with all the other pressing needs), the older children and Pat completed the first renovation, the family prayer chapel.
Later, after redecoration of some bedrooms and getting the bathrooms in working order, the family set out to build a shrine to Our Lady of Grace. They pictured it on a small island in a pond in front of the house. A significant quantity of large stone was needed to complete the shrine with no resource for it. Faithfully, Pat told the children if Our Lady wants the shrine she will provide the stone. As the older boys started building a new front porch on the old farmhouse, they found all the large stones necessary to complete the project right under their feet. The pond was excavated to a depth 15 feet deep. When the excavator finished the digging he declared it would take two years to naturally fill the pond with water. The awesome power of God proved him wrong. After placing a life size statue of Our Lady of Grace on the island, a dear friend, Fr. John McFadden, Pad & Ed’s spiritual advisor at the time, consecrated the Heinz farm as the Servants of Mary Center for Peace on July 9, 1992, to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. On July 13th, a Fatima apparition feast day, rain poured and poured upon their property. By July 16th, just three days later, the pond was full to the rim.
Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe
On August 5, 1992, the Center hosted its first program in a tent. Among one of the speakers that day was Tony Zuniga from Philadelphia, Pa. Because Tony is Mexican/American and has a great devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Ed and Pat asked him to walk the property and designate a spot for a shrine to her. After three days of prayer, Tony suggested the shrine to be built on the island in a small lake that had been excavated out in the field in the back of the house. He said the statue should be 33 feet high in honor of each year of Jesus’ life on earth. With great anticipation, Ed and Pat promised Tony that if he found a sculptor, they would build the statue. Within weeks, Tony miraculously discovered a talented sculptor named Richard Hyslin in Texas that was willing to donate his services. Using the 33’ as the starting point. Richard’s first model did not include the base, the rays or the supporting angel. When he adjusted the model to accurately replicate the real tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the total image rose to 50 feet.
The Early Days
Ed’s company continued to flourish in England and Pat continued to improve the Center for Peace. As a couple, they endured the trial of travel between two countries to ensure the Center could be built in honor of Our Lord and His Mother, Mary. Inspired by a healing service lead by Fr. Peter Mary Rookey during the summer of 1993, the boys built an open-sided 100’ by 46’ pavilion. By winter, the pavilion was enclosed, insulated and heated. It now serves as the chapel and as a stage for nationally renowned speakers, musicians, and holiday programs. Over the summer of 1994, Richard Hyslin and his crew raised and finished the concrete substrate of Our Lady of Guadalupe near the back of the lake. A special formulation of concrete sprayed over a steel mesh frame was used in construction. After allowing the statue to cure properly over the winter, Our Lady was finished in 1995 by hand placing over 450,000 colored 1” mosaic tiles and adding the stainless steel rays to the statue.
A Special Place
Ed summarized the family’s zeal for Our Lord, “When we prayed for Our Lord to return the farm, we promised Him that we would use it for the Greater Glory of God. We have invested all of our income to improve the farm and to develop the Servants of Mary Center for Peace.” Pat adds, “We want to bring Our Lords glory to others by having Mass said here regularly and by offering our home as a haven for peace. Here, ordained and lay speakers and singers from all over the world can teach and share the treasures of our Catholic faith with people of all faiths.”
Ed related, “The Servants of Mary Center for Peace is more “grassroots” Catholic. Our desire is to provide a holy and peaceful environment where God’s people can learn more about their faith and share in the fellowship of the Body of Christ”.