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A crucial campaign to install a statue of the Virgin Mary under the title "Our Lady of America" is shifting into high gear as a new petition is being circulated and laymen are being asked to take up a cause that has still not been met -- despite pleadings by the Virgin in what appears to be the first revelation in the U.S. to attain first-stage ecclesiastical approval. 

The petition is being offered on the internet via laymen working in New Jersey, Colorado, and California and will be in evidence this fall at a major conference set for Washington.

Organized from the remnant of a cloister in Fostoria, Ohio, it requests U.S. bishops -- who as a group oversee the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington -- to install a statue there commemorating the Virgin as she appeared to Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil -- a contemplative nun who allegedly experienced apparitions and visions from 1928 until her death last year.

Since her death there has been a sudden upsurge of interest in what until her death had been obscure revelations. Among messages Sister Mildred received (in a part of her revelation that had been approved by a now-deceased archbishop, Paul F. Leibold of Cincinnati,) was the promise that installation of Our Lady of America in the shrine would prevent America from falling into further moral decline. 

As far back at 1970 Monsignor William F. McDonough, then director of the National Shrine, visited Sister Mildred and expressed an extremely positive impression. Despite that, and despite the endorsement of the archbishop (who edited the very messages and lent his imprimatur), the mission is far from complete and now appears to be in the hands of the laity -- whom Sister Mildred always prophesied would be the ones to clamor for installation of an American apparition.

Such pressure has proved to be effective in the past and may resurrect a request that is now 45 years old -- a request that came just before America descended into the moral morass of the Sixties.

According to Sister Neuzil, the Virgin "requested a statue made according to this likeness and placed, after being solemnly carried in procession, in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. She wishes to be honored there in a special way as Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin."

"Tell the bishops of the United States, my loyal sons, of my desires and how I wish them to be carried out," the Virgin allegedly said. "Through him who is head over you, make known the longings of my Immaculate Heart to establish the reign of my Divine Son in the hearts of men and thus save them from the scourge of heaven, both now and hereafter. 

"My daughter," Sister Mildred further quoted the Virgin as saying, "will my children in America listen to my pleadings and console my Immaculate Heart? Will my loyal sons carry out my desires and thus help me bring the peace of Christ once again to mankind?"

The Virgin said if her desires were carried out purity would return to the U.S. -- which she said had been designed by God to spiritually lead the world. The shrine is to become a place of great pilgrimage, the Virgin reputedly added, and "a place of wonders" -- especially spiritual conversions.

"I am the Immaculate One, Patroness of your land," the Virgin allegedly said. "Be my faithful children as I have been your faithful Mother. These are my words, O my daughter. Make them known to my children. I desire to make the whole of America my shrine by making every heart accessible to the love of my Son... The hour grows late."

"Our Lady of America has herself pledged to be our safeguard," says one of the petition organizers, Anita Marovich of Tenafly, New Jersey. "Her statue in our National Shrine will be a safeguard for our nation, for she has warned that, because of her special calling to the people of America, the forces of evil will be focused on our land, and the threat of chastisement for the many transgressions of our nation hangs heavily over us. Our Lady often spoke to Sister that much of this effort would be in the hands of the laity and it would be the cries of her children in America that would move the bishops to fulfill her desires, at last."

Similar urgings have been expressed by Audrey Frank, who has spearheaded efforts from California, and Elaine Bratrsovsky of Colorado [click names for e-mail].

Prayer groups, Marian centers, charismatic groups, Catholic colleges, shrines, orders, eucharistic groups, priests, nuns, and all laity have been urged to circulate them. 

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