By Sara Foss, Birmingham Post-Herald
In 1986, a man with a great enthusiasm for Medjugorje began visiting Jack Sacco in his office at the Eternal Word Television Network, a Roman Catholic television network based in Irondale.
At that time, Sacco was organizing one of the first trips from Alabama to Medjugorje, a rural village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where six youths had reported receiving messages from the Virgin Mary in 1981.
"I convinced two friends to go with me," said Sacco, a Birmingham native who now runs Michelangelo Films, a film production company based in Marina del Rey, Calif. "Before we left, this guy Terry is showing up in my office every day, all enthusiastic. He would talk about Medjugorje."
Sacco was referring to Terry Colafrancesco, then a landscaper who ran his business out of his home in Sterrett in Shelby County.
Today Colafrancesco is the president and founder of Caritas of Birmingham, a religious organization in Sterrett dedicated to promoting devotion to the visions of Medjugorje.
By Sara Foss, Birmingham Post-Herald
When the Flynn and the Littiken families moved to Caritas of Birmingham, they did it for their children.
The idea of a wholesome farming community, where devout Roman Catholics worshipped together and worked side by side, appealed to them.
By Andy Treinen, Fox News 19
Faith is defined as a complete acceptance of a truth which cannot be proved by the process of logical thought. All of us have faith in something, but sometimes our faith is betrayed. That's exactly what happened to a local man who after nine years, came to the realization that he was in a cult.
Tom O'Neill, a Xavier graduate and former teacher at LaSalle High School, was also in the FBI for 20 years. But none of his past work prevented him from making one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Now, his daughter is the one at risk.
"What is happening at Caritas is exactly the same as Waco, Texas," claimed O'Neill.
By Associated Press
A multimillion dollar religious mission in rural Shelby County is under fire from critics and former residents who accuse the leader of brainwashing and financial mismanagement.
Longtime members have left Caritas of Birmingham after becoming disenchanted with the operation, and the organization is named in a federal lawsuit over its work to promote visions of the Virgin Mary.
The disputes center around Terry Colafrancesco, the founder and leader of Caritas, which has a publishing house and operates a travel service to Europe.
Complaints about the organization were revealed Monday in a story by the Birmingham Post-Herald, which said Colafrancesco did not respond to repeated interview requests.
An attorney who has done legal work for Caritas said Colafrancesco and his followers are good people with a "positive mission."
"Terry has always had the philosophy that he doesn't respond to people who say bad things about him," said lawyer Joseph Ritchey.
By Jay Reeves, Montgomery Advertiser
Sterrett -- A multimillion-dollar organization that promotes visions of the Virgin Mary is fighting charges of being a destructive cult as religious pilgrims from across the nation arrive at its Alabama compound seeking spiritual renewal.
Five former residents of Caritas of Birmingham have filed suit in state court seeking an unspecified amount of money from the group and its founder, Terry Colafrancesco.
The suit claims Colafrancesco lures people into Caritas with promises of spiritual enrichment and then drains them of money. Families are made to live in nasty trailers at the group's compound, and Colafrancesco controls their lives almost totally, the suit claims.
"Considering the above, it can be concluded that if someone supports Caritas of Birmingham, they are supporting a strange, religious sect and this potentially, which may cause serious damage in an individual's personal and family life.
If you are Roman Catholic perhaps you should first seek spiritual direction from the recognized and historic Catholic Church, before becoming involved with Caritas of Birmingham and/or the Community of Caritas."
By Jason Deegan, Ann Arbor News Staff Reporter
The Flynns say they are focused on moving on with their new lives, but they feel obligated to talk about their experiences to warn others. Their terrifying tale started in 1991, when the family sold everything, moving from Jacksonville, Fla., to Birmingham, Ala., to join Caritas, a group the family thought was a religious mission.
Caritas, founded in 1988 by Terry Colafrancesco, claims to be a spiritual community dedicated to promoting the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, which six youths say they witnessed in Medjugorje, Bosnia, in 1981.
Flynn said the family lived in a trailer inside a compound where roughly 50 people of Roman Catholic faith live. The Flynns stayed with Caritas for nine years, despite living under the control of its leaders.
By Covenant Community Blog
"I am very familiar with covenant communities, however, have had some inquiries regarding Caritas located in Birmingham, Alabama. This group seems to have some similarities to abusive covenant communities."
"What I know is that the group is governed by a former KKK member who believes that his purpose is to have the folks in his group live according to the "teachings" of Mary - related to apparitions in Medjugorje. While most folks whom I know who are involved in Medjugorje prayer groups have a healthy relationship with one another and the Church, Caritas seems over the top."
Despite its proximity, whenever anyone asked Mother Angelica about Caritas she never encouraged anyone to visit it.
As for Caritas of Birmingham, the recent bishops of the Birmingham diocese (Boland and Foley) have done nothing to favor this site, and have forbid the celebration of Mass there (though not confessions).
The position of Mother Angelica has always been to discourage people from going there. That is also EWTN's position.
November 25, 2000
Caritas of Birmingham
100 Our Lady Queen of Peace Drive
Sterrett, Alabama 35147
It has been brought to my attention that in response to questions coming to Caritas about Fr. Svetozar's recent fax expressing the concerns of the Franciscans of St. James in Medjugorje about your community, people are being told:
1. Sr. Emmanuel has been asked to leave Medjugorje.
2. The priests of the parish are trying to stop the messages from going out.