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OHIO NUN SUFFERED INTENSELY BUT WAS SET ON MISSION OF STATUE TO THE END
Sister Mildred Mary Neuzil, the Ohio nun whose apparitions have suddenly risen as a national cause in the U.S. [see previous stories below], was determined to the end of her days on the mission of installing "Our Lady of America," a statue fashioned after her visions, in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and bore tremendous mystical suffering for that cause, according to a nun who was with her in her final days.
It was just before World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 -- when a statue of Our Lady of America was first carried in public procession -- that Sister Millie (as friends knew her) suddenly began an intense suffering that remained with her until her death at 83 a year ago.
The Virgin appeared to the nun as patroness of America from 1956 to 2000 -- granting messages that met with the formal approval of her spiritual director, Archbishop Paul F. Leibold of Cincinnati. Other messages from Jesus and angels dated back to 1938.
Among the messages was a request in 1956 by the Virgin for the U.S. to spiritually lead the world and to have the likeness of the apparitions placed in the nation's shrine -- a request that her fellow sisters and supporters are now ardently seeking to fulfill.
It has been a long road, and it was an especially rough one for the seer. Each time the cause progressed, say those who knew her, Sister Mildred was given intense sufferings -- whether strokes, a heart attack, severe arthritis, or a broken hip, which she endured with no complaint.
Toward the end, her part of the mission seemed complete.
"Right before she had one stroke, she was sitting in her chair and she said to me, 'The Blessed Mother told me now that she will take over,'" recalls Sister Joseph Therese of the Contemplative Sisters in Fostoria, Ohio. "That was August or September of 1999. Then her suffering became very, very, very intense after that. But her suffering really started before World Youth Day, really bad. The more progress, the more suffering. The devil told her, 'you give this up and you'll be fine.' He used to actually punch her around. He beat her up."
In one case just before World Youth Day friends spotted her being thrown about the inside of a truck the sisters used and couldn't get to her until she was bruised by what was described as an assault of the evil one. Witnesses said the truck could be seen rocking from the force of the attack (reminiscent of similar attacks on Padre Pio).
But the saintly nun never relented and continued to offer her suffering for the cause that started more than sixty years before. Toward the end she had "many" strokes, according to Sister Joseph, as well as asthma, the heart attack, and arthritis so severe she was hunched at a 45-degree angle.
"I was with her" at the end, says Sister Joseph. "When she came back from the hospital about a week before she died, I remember she looked at me and said, 'I see the light now. I see the light' -- meaning she was going to be going. She had a tube. We had to feed her through a tube. But she died very, very peacefully. She was very contented and you could tell she was in prayer and that God was there. So many times I'd walk in and she'd say, 'Oh, the Blessed Mother is standing right there.'"
Thus did Sister Mildred Neuzil die early in the morning of January 10, 2000, leaving the mission of establishing Our Lady of America to her friends, relatives, and fellow sisters -- a cause that, with a medal struck, a plaque ordered by an archbishop, and an imprimatur, has come the closest an American apparition ever has to full canonical recognition.
But the key remaining request of the Virgin -- installment of the statue --remains unfinished business.
"We corresponded a lot about the statue and how Our Lady requested it and I had this feeling I was meant to help get the statue into the national shrine, so I was trying to work towards that," says Sister Monica Schrott, a Carmelite nun in Latrobe, Pennsylvania who met Sister Mildred during a psychology course in 1968. "That was one of the wishes of Our Lady and it was stated that when Our Lady's wishes are carried out, then the prayers will be answered for the nation and the world."
In the revelations the Virgin told Sister Mildred to "tell the bishops of the United States, my loyal sons, of my desires and how I wish them to be carried out. 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."
While Archbishop Leibold had fulfilled most of the requests and even hung the plaque of Our Lady of America in the chancery, he died suddenly of an aneurism before he could construct the official statue. The archbishop's former secretary, Father Francis Lammeier, confirms that the archbishop was "very close" to the apparitions and had "no doubt" about their authenticity after serving as Sister Mildred's spiritual director for 32 years.
It's unclear what if any diocese now has jurisdiction. At the time Sister Mildred's mother house was in Dayton -- which falls in the Cincinnati diocese -- but actually lived in Fostoria, which is under the bishop of Toledo. The nun also experienced some of the apparitions in other states, and so the matter is believed to be one in need of a national theologian, a committee of bishops, the rector of the national shrine, or the Vatican.
Whatever the case, the fact remains that messages from the Virgin granted an authorization by an archbishop who had served as the nun's spiritual director for three decades have not yet met their completion and are now the subject of efforts by a growing number of laymen across America. As we have reported previously, those who knew Sister Neuzil unanimously describe her as a suffering soul who sought to avoid publicity of any kind but ardently sought to have the requests met.
"She was very personable, very unassuming, never was out to draw attention to herself, and very kind," says a niece, Elaine Neuzil Bratrsovsky. "She didn't like fussing [over her]. Her experiences were to draw people to Our Lord and Blessed Mother. She never went around openly talking about it. If I asked her something about it she would respond. She had a deep love for the Trinity, the indwelling Christ, a deep love for Our Lady and concern for people being drawn back to the Christian lifestyle of the Holy Family."
According to Sister Monica, Sister Neuzil sent her a handwritten account of the apparitions but asked that it be destroyed after she read it. Sister Monica obeyed that wish, but copied it by her own hand before discarding the original papers. "I went along with her because there was a friendship between us and I knew she wasn't able to trick somebody," says the Carmelite nun. "She was so open and simple that she wouldn't be pulling anything over anybody. I thought she was incapable of deceiving anybody. She really had these visions. When we first contacted each other I didn't know anything of it. But then she sent me a medal of Our Lady of America and a little leaflet that went with it and then I wrote back and asked her a question about it. That's when she wrote about it in her own handwriting but asked me to destroy it afterwards because she wanted her identity hidden."
Sister Neuzil's sister, Grace, recalls that Mildred had always wanted to be a nun
from an early age on. "Her parents were reluctant to have her leave home and enter the convent at the tender age of thirteen, but after speaking with the sisters, Mildred's parents finally gave permission with the understanding that Mildred would always be free to come back home, should she so desire," says Mrs. Bratrsovsky. "Sister Mildred adhered to her vocation throughout her life remaining completely dedicated to her Divine Spouse. She was a natural contemplative. She was creative and artistic. She had a beautiful singing voice. She also was an avid reader."
A professional writer who helped Sister Millie with a novena comments that "sister's wonderful warmth and down-to-earth humility were, perhaps, even more extraordinary than the apparitions."
Another nun from Massachusetts who corresponded with Sister Neuzil described her as "a very, very holy person " who once commented that she was surprised at the level of suffering but happily accepted it. Indeed, so stricken with arthritis was Sister Mildred at the end of her life that her back had to be broken to rest her flat in the coffin...
[For more information write Our Lady of America Center, PO Box 445, Fostoria, Ohio 44830 or e-mail here. We are offering a 48-page booklet of Sister Mildred's messages for a donation for each booklet, proceeds of which will be sent to the nuns in Fostoria [see books page].
Move afoot for first official approval of American apparition
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U.S. apparition: 'I come to you, O America, as a last resort'
America's hidden past: artifacts indicate devotion to Mary by Vikings in U.S.
Former secretary says archbishop held 'no reservations' on Ohio apparitions
Ohio Apparition: the Blessed Mother's plan to rescue America
Saint Joseph emphasized in American apparition
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