In the mid 1970s, Robert J. Fox, a priest incardinatedin the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, and a prominent author and speaker on devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, founded "Youth for Fatima", an apostolate that conducted thirteen day pilgrimages to Fatima for young people. This grew into the Fatima Family Apostolate, which was founded in 1986, with the encouragement of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Fox took his inspiration from Pope John Paul II's November 22, 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World).
At the time, Fox was assigned to the parish of St. Mary of Mercy in Alexandria, South Dakota. There, he built a Marian shrine now known as the Fatima Family Shrine. It was the third Marian shrine Fox built, having previously erected shrines during earlier assignments at St. Bernard's Parish in Redfield and the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Waubay. The shrine in Alexandria was dedicated during the 1987 Marian Year by Alberto Cosme do Amaral, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leiria-Fátima, and is maintained largely through freewill donations.
In September 1987 Fox hosted the first annual Marian Congress in America at Alexandria. The 1989 Congress was attended by Édouard Cardinal Gagnon, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Fox had many speaking engagements and during a visit to Moscow, presented Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima as a gift to the Russian people. FFA "...considers it to have been one of its greatest honors, when Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, ...requested the FFA to finance the building of Russia's first Fatima shrine."
Robert J. Fox, Founder of the FFA, died on 26 November 2009 at his home in Hanceville, AL, USA. A lay person author and writer and convert to the Catholic Church, John C. Preiss, became President of the Fatima Family Apostolate and Editor of the quarterly magazine the Immaculate Heart Messenger.
The FFA is located in Hanceville, Alabama. It is an international Apostolate, having members all over the world and publishes a quarterly magazine called the Immaculate Heart Messenger.
The FFA has built shrines in honor of Our Lady in Alexandria, South Dakota and Hanceville, Alabama. The FFA operates the Father Robert J. Fox and Our Lady of Fatima Museum to educate its visitors on the life of Father Fox and the message of Our Lady of Fatima.