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By Michael H. Brown

Last October I gave an address at an event at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington -- our nation's Catholic "flagship" church. The event came at a dramatic moment in American history (less than a month after the attacks in New York and on the nearby Pentagon) and at an incredibly opportune time for a message pertaining to the United States.

That message: please install a statue dedicated to "Our Lady of America" at the shrine, as requested in apparitions to a nun from Ohio named Sister Mildred Neuzil. It was a sincere request: though not approved in the fashion of Fatima or Lourdes, the seer had an undeniably close rapport with an archbishop who had served as her spiritual director since his earlier priesthood and who had no doubt about the authenticity of the apparition, even striking a medal, creating a plaque, and promising to get the statue installed.

Unfortunately, the archbishop, Paul F. Leibold of Cincinnati, died in the 1970s and since that time the attempt to meet the Virgin's request -- so very urgent today -- has floundered. It has not been taken up as a formal issue by the American bishops, who direct what is or is not in the basilica, along with the rector. I doubt my own plea there, a little effort to be sure, but an honest attempt, was heard by the hierarchy. From what we can tell, the apparition still has not been taken seriously.

This is tremendously perplexing in that the shrine has niches dedicated to foreign apparitions. There is one dedicated to an apparition in Pontmain, France; there is one dedicated to an alleged apparition to a Hindu in Vailankannl, India; there is one representing Our Lady of Antipolo, Philippines, and Mariazell, Austria, and Our Lady of Bistrica in Croatia -- there is a little shrine dedicated to an appearance of the Virgin in Brezje, Slovenia -- but none dedicated to any revelation of Mary in the vast expanse of the United States, which has been around now as a nation for more than 225 years and is the country to which the basilica is oriented.

"Our Lady asked me to draw a picture of her first appearance," wrote Sister Neuzil. "She also requested a statue made 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."

While there is one official who argues that it has no large formal following, and that the new archbishop must rule again, this is confusing because the original determination of the bishop who has jurisdiction is what is normally accepted as approbation, and if the apparition has no formal shrine dedicated to it as yet, this is because such was not a request; the request was simply that a statue be installed at the national shrine; the nun remained very quiet about the apparition and it has only become widely known since her death two years ago.

For those of you who are new viewers, the entire archive of the articles about this apparition can be accessed by clicking here. Please, send your bishops a letter, or these articles. "The hour grows late," the Virgin had once told Sister Neuzil. "Tell the bishops of the United States, my loyal sons, of my desires and how I wish them to be carried out. Will my loyal sons carry out my desires and thus help me bring the peace of Christ once again to mankind?"

If we went back to her Immaculate Heart, said Mary, there would be mercy. There would be a new spring. If not, there would be "suffering and anguish." The shrine was to become a center of spiritual miracles (miracles of conversion) and the country a beacon to the rest of the world -- not just an economic, military, and political superpower, but also a spiritual superpower. 

"Our Lady promised that greater miracles than those granted at Lourdes and Fatima would be granted here in America, the United States in particular, if we do as she desires," said Sister Neuzil in a booklet of her messages, which was edited by the archbishop. "Behold, O my children, the tears of your Mother!" Mary told her. "Shall I weep in vain? Assuage the sorrow of my Heart over the ingratitude of sinful men by the love and chasteness of your lives. Will you do this for me, beloved children -- or will you allow your Mother to weep in vain?"

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