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Necedah

Necedah

Necedah, Wisconsin, was the site for almost 30 years of regular apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Mary Anne Van Hoof (1909-1984). The apparitions began on April 7, 1950, and attracted thousands to the small town in central Wisconsin for what became one of the most controversial incidents in Marian devotional history. Van Hoof initially saw the Virgin on November 12, 1949, the one-year anniversary of the last of a set of apparitions that had taken place in Lipa, Philippines. Then some months later, on April 7, 1950, the Virgin appeared again and for the first time spoke to Van Hoof, and told her to pray for the peoples of the world. Then on May 28, she appeared in what became a pattern, as a blue mist that would then turn into the figure of the Virgin. Over the next several days she came daily and then continued to appear quite frequently. She left lengthy messages relating her appearances to the previous apparitions in Fatima and Lipa. Van Hoof was asked to mark the spot of the apparitions and then to construct a shrine.

News of the apparition soon reached the parish priest and a report was sent to the bishop in La Crosse. By the time of the fifth appearance of the Virgin on June 16, Necedah was frontpage news in Chicago, and large crowds, in the tens of thousands, began to gather at the stand of ash trees near Van Hoof's home on the edge of town. During the apparitions, Van Hoof would generally kneel, receive the message, and then step to a microphone and repeat what she had seen and heard. The next apparitions were promised for August 15 and October 7. Over the summer, Catholic periodicals and some bishops began to warn their people to stay away following the announcement by the bishop of La Crosse that there were some questionable aspects to the apparitions, but the crowds continued to arrive. On October 7, many in the crowd reported seeing a miracle of the sun, such as had occurred at Fatima, though others saw nothing.

In 1955, the bishop of La Crosse took a more definitive step and declared the apparitions false and prohibited Roman Catholics from participating in any worship that might occur at the apparition site. In the face of the pronouncements, the crowds dwindled but did not disappear. The faithful at the shrine continued and Van Hoof still received apparitions. An organization arose to manage the shrine that had been built, and efforts were begun to have the bishop reconsider his judgment. Eventually in 1975, those associated with the shrine were placed under interdict, an action one step short of excommunication. This action barred them from all the sacraments except confession. By this time, a number of shrines had been constructed in the general area of the central shrine at the spot of the apparitions. In 1977 the group commenced building its own church. An order of nuns was created, the Sisters of the Seven Dolors of the Sorrowful Mother, and the Seven Dolors of Our Sorrowful Mother Infants Home opened.

Two years later the Sisters of the Seven Delors organizations formally severed any remaining ties to the Roman Catholic Church, and realigned with a small independent Catholic jurisdiction, the American National Catholic Church, though that relationship ended in scandal in 1981. Since that time the shrine has operated under a separate corporation, For My God and My Country, Inc. Van Hoof died in 1984. The group that grew out of her apparitions continues as does its charity work. They have transcribed all of the messages that she received over the years and now circulate them in a several-volume work. Followers around the country are kept in touch with a monthly periodical.

Sources:

Revelations and Messages as Given to Mary Ann Van Hoof. 2 vols. Necedah, Wis.: For My God and My Country, Inc., 1971, 1978.

Swan, Henry. My Work at Necedah. 4 vols. Necedah, Wis.: For My God and My Country, Inc., 1959.

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