Americans without prescription coverage can get savings, plus a spiritual boost, from a Catholic online medicine discounter.

Ave Maria Pharmacy Services, in operation for four years, is not a store full of drugs.

It's a company offering a free card that gives uninsured holders discounts of 15 to 35 percent on prescription purchases. The card is good at more than 30 pharmacy chains, including Fred Meyer, Rite Aid, Safeway and Walgreens.

Last year, more than 100,000 prescriptions were filled using the Ave Maria cards.

The project is endorsed by the Catholic Medical Association. The Priests for Life website carries links to the service.

Bishop Robert Vasa sent information about the card to parishes in the central and eastern Oregon Diocese of Baker.

The only catch is spiritual. The website where people can request cards also tries to spread the message of Divine Mercy. The notion comes from the experiences and writings of Blessed Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who died in 1938. In her prayer, she came to understand that Christ wants to heal humanity, not punish it.

Pope John Paul canonized St. Faustina as the first saint of the new millennium and instituted Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001.

'Without speaking of God, my program would simply be a social service function, which it is not,' says Mark Endres, the 45-year-old Wisconsin healthcare advocate who founded Ave Maria Pharmacy Services.

'So, I hope to provide not only a pharmacy discount card to people who visit my site, but to also help them come closer to God and his divine mercy.'

The Ave Maria website quotes Pope John Paul on topics such as the inviolability of human life.

A member of the Catholic Medical Association, Endres long worked with an association of seniors. With the clout of tens of thousands of people behind him, he negotiated bulk prescription purchasing. That helped pave the way when he wanted to begin his own service and link it to faith.

Endres and his wife are members of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, Wis., where their three children are altar servers.

Ave Maria stays afloat because the pharmacies send it a small amount for each prescription filled on one of the cards.

Endres is the only employee, though he contracts out for many projects such as printing.

Requests for the cards have increased in the past six months. Dioceses, parishes, Catholic hospitals and dozens of aid agencies like Catholic Charities in Atlanta and Boise have asked for stacks of 100 cards.

Many people and institutions that are not Catholic have shown interest. That includes Duke University Hospital.

The bulk of orders still comes from individuals who often must choose between food and prescriptions.

Most brand and generic medication qualify for a discount.

The card cannot be used in conjunction with any other benefit, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

To get more information, or to order cards, check the web or email. Requests can also be made by mail to 2935 S. Fish Hatchery Rd., #111, Madison, WI 5371.