Bishop To Enthrone Statue Honoring Virgin As "Our Lady Of America" -- Taking Apparition A Step Closer To Approval
The diocesan newspaper in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is set to report that Bishop David Ricken will enthrone a statue of "Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin," at St. Mary's Cathedral in what immediately becomes one of the largest developments pertaining to the alleged apparition, adding to the partial approval previously expressed during the 1960s by then Cincinnati Archbishop Paul F. Leibold.
As we have previously reported, it was Archbishop Leibold who granted an imprimatur to messages allegedly received from the Virgin Mary by a cloistered nun, Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil of the Contemplative Sisters of the Indwelling Trinity, in Fostoria, Ohio.
Sister Neuzil, who died in 2000, said she was asked by Mary to have a statue of the Virgin under the title "Our Lady of America" constructed and placed after a solemn procession in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. -- and that if this happened the U.S. would turn back toward morality and the shrine would become a place of "wonders."
For years, a small group of workers spearheaded by one of Sister Neuzil's colleagues, Sister Joseph Therese of Fostoria, Ohio, and a laywoman, Audrey Frank of California, have fought to accomplish the Blessed Mother's alleged requests, a major one of which will be bolstered with the enthronement by a bishop, setting the stage, perhaps, to placement in the National Shrine.
The enthronement joins other actions that apparently have formed the closest thing to official ecclesiastic approval that a claimed apparition in the U.S. has received. In addition to the imprimatur, Archbishop Leibold already had displayed a plaque of the Madonna under Sister Neuzil's prescribed title and had medals of Our Lady of America struck at his own expense.
Although there is not yet an official written declaration, the definition of "approval" has varied through the centuries and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is not yet clear if the apparition remains "partially approved," or will enter into a realm that would mark it as the first approved American apparition. Installment in the National Shrine might be viewed as that final step, although it may also be the case that final review of a declaration by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- once headed by Pope Benedict XVI, and now led by American Archbishop William J. Levada -- is necessary.
Such an avenue might likewise require approval by the bishop of either Cincinnati, Toledo, or Fort Wayne, Indiana, dioceses where Sister Neuzil lived during her reputed apparitions.
But it is not certain that such will be needed and Bishop Ricken has jurisdiction over the area in which the statue has been constructed. Sculptor Robert Fida, from Cheyenne, was selected by the Our Lady of America Center to create the historic statue. Fida's 25 years of experience includes the "Our Lady of Peace" shrine in Pine Bluffs.
According to The Wyoming Catholic Register, there will be a novena beginning February 11 and continuing through February 19. At two p.m. on February 19, at 2 p.m., the bishop will process around the Cathedral with the statue while parishioners sing Immaculate Mary. There will also be exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and an Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Prayers will begin following the 7:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral.
While written declarations have often been mandated, especially since the famed apparitions at Lourdes and La Salette in the 19th century, in earlier centuries the processing of a statue affiliated with a miracle was taken as approval and led to the construction of numerous shrines and churches throughout Europe, especially in France, Italy, and Spain.
The United States has no formally approved first-tier Marian apparitions, despite the fact that it is now more than two centuries old and 17 times larger in area than nations like France, which has dozens of acknowledged Catholic wonders.
Close to such recognition has been an alleged appearance of Mary in Robinsonville, Wisconsin, in the 1800s. Other alleged historic apparitions included appearances in St. Louis and San Francisco. But none has achieved formal recognition at the highest level.
The most recent apparition to gain full first-tier ecclesiastic approbation involved apparitions to several seers in Kibeho, Rwanda, at which time a declaration written by the diocesan bishop was released from the Sacred Congregation in Rome. In the case of Sister Mildred, it is not clear if any single bishop has ultimate authority.
She died on January 10, 2000, at age 83, but left behind a small booklet of messages and detailed correspondences with Archbishop Leibold, including warnings and instruction from Heaven in the form of apparitions and interior locutions from 1938 until her death. The revelations involved locutions from Jesus, St. Joseph, and angels, as well as the apparitions of Mary, which actually began at a convent in Indiana.
Archbishop Leibold was Sister Mildred’s spiritual director until he died in 1972. It was said that he planned to issue a document affirming the apparitions but did not do so before meeting with death at a relatively young age. His striking of a medal in honor of Our Lady of America was one of the first times in U.S. history that a private revelation of Our Lady to an American citizen had been granted that level of approval. The image is one of Mary with a golden crown, showing the Immaculate Heart and holding a lily.
The revelations as reported by Sister Neuzil had a three-fold purpose. Our Lady of America, it was said, called the Catholic people in the U.S. to a deeper understanding of the Divine indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity; to a recognition of its mission to lead the world to holiness; and to a renewal of family life in imitation of the Holy Family. If this was not done, Mary said, there would be war and unprecedented disaster.
As early as the 1950s, the Blessed Mother warned of serious attacks against the moral foundations of the U.S. With amazing accuracy, she predicted the onslaught of impurity, the breakdown of the family, and scandals in the Church [see extensive archive]. As a remedy for these evils, she called for a deeper devotion to the Holy Family, particularly St. Joseph, and called upon all, particularly the youth, to cultivate the virtue of purity.
Sister Neuzil said placement of a statue in the National Shrine would help the nation return to morality and the shrine would then become a place of spiritual healing.
A request to do this was sent years ago to all cardinals and bishops in the U.S., along with a letter sent to the then Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, requesting not only construction of the statue but a solemn consecration of the U.S. in order to avoid "catastrophe." This occurred just before September 11.
The letter asked the official Church "to honor her as Our Lady of America and to unite all the bishops of the United States in consecrating America to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the protection of our nation and for the sanctification of so many souls."
It's not clear what further route the process of approval might take. Because Sister Mildred experienced apparitions of the Virgin not just in the Cincinnati area but also in other dioceses, those proposing the cause sought Vatican aid and the naming of a national theologian to investigate. Meanwhile, the National Shrine itself failed to embrace the apparition, at least up until now.
While miraculous statues are recognized in the U.S. -- most notably Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans and La Conquistadora in Santa Fe -- never has an American apparition gained full approval -- which, as stated, usually involves a bishop's declaration and in many cases the commissioning of art depicting the apparition, along with a medal and often erection of a chapel, basilica, or church dedicated to Mary under the revealed title.
Archbishop Leibold not only took the extraordinary step of ordering a medal fashioned after the apparitions and having two large plaques depicting Our Lady of America made -- hanging one in the Cincinnati chancery -- but also personally edited Sister Mildred's messages, okayed their release, and served as her spiritual director from 1940 to 1972. His successors have been less enthusiastic at a time when U.S. bishops have often turned a cold shoulder to alleged supernatural events.
No apparitions have been fully sanctioned in the U.S. since its foundation but the Ohio case appears to have that chance. According to Sister Joseph Therese, the archbishop was "about ready to do a great big statue of Our Lady of America, but then he passed away."
Born in Brooklyn, Sister Mildred professed as a religious in 1933 and began to encounter mystical experiences five years later.
Only ten years after, in 1948, did she bring them to the attention of her confessor as they grew increasingly vivid -- with special warnings for the United States. In May of 1958 Sister Mildred entered a cloister. By that time she had been receiving messages about a special devotion to Our Lady of America.
It was through this devotion -- and placement of the statue in Washington -- that Sister Mildred said she was told the U.S. would assume a place of special spiritual as opposed to just political leadership and avoid what Sister Mildred repeatedly warned were coming events.
Interestingly, the apparitions of Mary began in 1956 on eve of the Feast of the North American Martyrs -- the first martyrs canonized in connection with the U.S.
"The main thing was sanctification of the family, the youth, and that the Blessed Mother wants to be honored in the National Shrine," Sister Joseph told Spirit Daily at the time.
"Tell the bishops of the United States, my loyal sons, of my desires and how I wish them to be carried out," Mary allegedly told Sister Mildred, who saw Mary with a white veil reaching almost to her waist and a mantle and robe of pure white with no decoration. An oblong brooch or clasp held the ends of the mantle together at the top.
It was all gold, as was the high and brilliant crown she wore. Her hair and eyes seemed medium brown, said Sister Mildred. Her feet were bare, but not always visible -- sometimes covered by the moving clouds on which she stood. Often she smiled and revealed a heart encircled by roses that sent forth flames of fire. "I am Our Lady of America," said the Virgin. "I desire that my children honor me, especially by the purity of their lives."
At times light twinkled from Mary's hair, wrote the nun, and seemed to radiate from within her.
It was in this aspect that the medal was struck by the archbishop. On the back is the Coat of Arms of the Christian Family with a symbol of the Divine indwelling.
"I was told that as long as it bore the form of a shield, the medal itself could be of any shape desired," Sister Mildred had noted. "Around the image of Our Lady, as she appeared September 26, 1956, these words are to be engraved: 'By thy Holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, deliver us from evil.' Those who wear the medal with great faith and fervent devotion to Our Lady will receive the grace of intense purity of heart and the particular love of the Holy Virgin and her Divine Son. Sinners will receive in life, so in death, this blessed medal will be as a shield to protect them against the evil spirits, and St. Michael himself will be at their side to allay their fears at the final hour."
According to Sister Mildred, "America, the United States in particular, is being given the tremendous, yet privileged, opportunity to lead all nations in a spiritual renewal never before so necessary, so important."
From the youth must come a flow of great love, said Sister Mildred.
And if it didn't, said Our Lady of America, there would be what the Virgin allegedly called a "purification."
[see extensive archive]
[resources: book of Our Lady of America Messages]
Bishop To Formally Acknowledge Statue But Doesn't Take Jurisdiction Over It
Bishop David Ricken has asked the diocesan newspaper to issue a clarification on the upcoming visit of the statue of Our Lady of America to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The statue is not technically being enthroned in the Cathedral, he said, but processed at the church. The newspaper issued an advance article about the upcoming ceremony on Tuesday.
"It is here for a visit to thank the Blessed Mother for her favors for the Diocese," the bishop's statement, sent late Thursday night, explains. "The statue will be there for the time of the Novena and he is not taking any jurisdiction over the statue."
Recognition of a statue dedicated to Our Lady of America has been seen as a potential step toward official recognition of the apparitions that inspired them. It has remained unclear who has final jurisdiction over alleged events that occurred over the course of several decades to a nun, Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil, who lived at various times in several parts of the U.S. While the lack of an official promoter has dampened enthusiasm, it is the first time in decades that acknowledgment of a statue dedicated to Our Lady of America has been accomplished, leading to hopes that it will one day be placed in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, as requested by the Blessed Mother.
The original release as sent to Spirit Daily read:
"CHEYENNE – On Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. Bishop David Ricken will enthrone a statue of Our Lady of America, Immaculate Virgin, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
"Included in the day will be a procession around the Cathedral while parishioners sing Immaculate Mary, Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and an Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
"The Novena will begin following the 7:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral.
"There will be a novena beginning Feb. 11 and continuing through Feb. 19. (See accompanying information.)
"The Blessed Virgin Mary appears in the image advanced for many years by Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil of the Contemplative Sisters of the Indwelling Trinity in Ohio, and her spiritual director, Archbishop Paul F. Leibold of Cincinnati. Sister Mildred died on Jan. 10, 2000, at age 83, but left behind a small booklet of messages and detailed correspondences with the archbishop. She received warnings and instruction from heaven in the form of apparitions and interior locutions from 1938 until her death.
"The archbishop was Sister Mildred’s spiritual director until he died in 1972. He struck a medal in honor of Our Lady of America -- the first time in U.S. history a private revelation of Our Lady to an American citizen had been granted Episcopal approval. The image is one of Mary with a golden crown, showing the Immaculate Heart and holding a lily.
"The revelations had a three-fold purpose: She called the Catholic people in the U.S. to a deeper understanding of the Divine indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity; to a recognition of their mission to lead the world to holiness; and to a renewal of family life in imitation of the Holy Family.
"As early as the 1950s, the Blessed Mother warned of serious attacks against the moral foundations of the U.S. and particularly against the family. With amazing accuracy, she predicted the onslaught of impurity, the breakdown of the family and scandals in the Church. As a remedy for these evils, she called for a deeper devotion to the Holy Family, particularly St. Joseph, and called upon all, particularly the youth, to cultivate the virtue of purity."
It has never been clear what diocese, if any, would have final authority over the apparitions. They occurred in several jurisdictions, including Cincinnati and Toledo in Ohio and the diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana -- where the first took place at a facility run by Precious Blood nuns in Sylvan Springs. The archbishop of Cincinnati, Paul J. Leibold, granted an imprimatur to the messages, had the medal struck with an image of Our Lady of America, and also hung a plaque of her at the chancery but never issued a formal proclamation.
The bishop of Cheyenne is seen as having a degree of authority in that the statue was recently sculpted by an artist in his diocese.
The issue of whether recognition of a statue relates to the apparitions themselves also cropped up in alleged revelation in Amsterdam, Holland, where a statue of "Mary, Mother of All Nations" was recognized for veneration at the same time that the apparitions themselves were rejected -- a decision that was later reversed by the current prelate. Placement of Our Lady of America in the National Shrine would lead to great miracles, maintained Sister Mildred, whose visions continued until her death six years ago. As we always have, we respectfully urge the nation's bishops to closely review this request.
Return to Spiritdaily.comReturn to archive page You are at www.spiritdaily.org