Bigger Than Fatima? Visions, Success and Decline in Necedah, Wisconsin
Necedah Shrine Sign
When my wife and I first encountered the Queen of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace Shrine, it was completely by chance. We were driving in the area of Necedah, Wisconsin and saw a sign for it. Intrigued, we followed the sign. After driving for about 20 minutes out of our way, we saw it. By this time, it was drizzling rain. When we got out of the car to approach the shrine, we saw a sign saying that women who are not wearing dresses or modest skirts need to be properly attired. In a small closet next to the sign there was an assortment of "proper" clothing that had definitely seen better days. My wife didn't want to put one on. That, combined with the weather, made us leave without having seen anything. Later, when we got home and looked up information about the shrine, we decided we had made a mistake by not going inside.
Mary Ann Van Hoof
It took us a couple of years until we made it back to that area. This time, my wife brought along a skirt to put on once we got there. She decided not to put it on and take her chances with the Virgin Mary's or a worker's wrath. The whole time we were walking around, we kept expecting someone to greet us or yell at us, but we saw nobody there except for the two people that were leaving as we arrived. At the end of the visit, we stopped in the gift shop/information center and there was a very friendly and eager to talk gentleman working there.
For those unfamiliar with the shrine at Necedah, here is a bit of history.
In 1950, Mary Ann Van Hoof claimed that she saw and talked to the Virgin Mary at her family farm. The first appearance was on November 12, 1949. On this date she saw just a floating, silent misty figure. On Good Friday of 1950, Mrs. Van Hoof said that she heard the Virgin Mary talking to her in a clear voice in her home as a crucifix on the wall glowed.
On May 28th of the same year, she saw a blue mist in the yard that she said turned into the Virgin Mary. The figure was above the trees and came down to hover a few set off of the ground as she spoke to Mrs. Van Hoof. Eventually the Blessed Virgin started to appear to Mary Ann Van Hoof on a regular basis and word spread around about the happenings on this small farm in Necedah, Wisconsin. The vision told Mary Ann that there would be a "miracle in the sun" on August 15. A huge crowd estimated at 100,000 people gathered at the farm. Life Magazine did a feature about Necedah and about the crowds that came to witness the miracle. Some witnesses to the "miracle in the sun" claimed to see the sun spinning. Others saw nothing.
In 1951 Bishop Treacy of La Crosse, WI asked Mrs. Van Hoof and her supporters to stop making claims of visitations and to stop producing pamphlets about the incidents. By 1955, after investigating all the claims made, the bishop declared the visions false and prohibited Roman Catholics from worshiping on the site. After these investigations the numbers of people visiting the site were reduced drastically. By 1975, Bishop Freking (Treacy's successor) placed Mary Ann Van Hoof and her supporters under interdict. Interdict is a step under excommunication. It essentially removed them from all sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church except for confession. The shrine broke with the Roman Catholic Church completely and continued operation.
Mary Ann continued seeing visions and continued to have a following. Besides regular visits with the Virgin Mary, (who was invisible to everyone except Mrs. Van Hoof) she also met with and had conversations with the Archangel Michael and St. Joan of Arc.
Replica House and Apparition Site
Mary Ann Van Hoof passed away in 1984, but the shrine still exists. If you go to visit you will see a statue of Mary placed at the site of the first visitation to Mrs. Van Hoof. You will also see statues of saints, angels, Satan and an especially interesting statue of Jesus flanked by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. There is an unfinished church on the property and a reproduction of the Van Hoof's farmhouse (the original was destroyed in a fire.)
After my wife and I had a look around, we stopped in the gift shop/information center. A very friendly elderly gentlemen seemed very glad to see us. He seemed shy, yet determined to get over this trait to spread the word of the shrine. He showed us the article from Life Magazine. He loaded us up with free pamphlets about the visions and the messages of the Virgin Mary to Mrs. Van Hoof. When we asked him about the church on the property, he looked a bit sad and explained that it is a bit slow moving because it is all being built by volunteers. Eventually it is supposed to have 2.500 seats and always have a Saint in attendance. We were also informed that Mary Ann Van Hoof expected Necedah to be "Bigger than Fatima," and he sounded like he still expects that to happen.
Van Hoof Family
Our friend in the information center caught my attention by informing us that Mrs. Van Hoof had stigmata. Having always been interested in the subject, I asked him if the stigmata was manifested in the hands and feet or if it also included the side or the marks of the crown of thorns. He answered that she had prayed to have it made invisible as not to embarrass her children. I looked at him with what must have been a confused expression. He stated that she had the pain of the stigmata, but it was invisible. I am really not trying to make fun of anybody's beliefs. Clearly the man standing before he was believing what he was telling me, but I don't ever recall hearing of invisible stigmata.
Mrs. Van Hoof, in her messages, was very concerned that we all pray the rosary. She was concerned with the conversion of Russia and the threat from Russia to the U.S.A. She was worried that thousands of priests were communists and that they were infiltrating the Catholic Church. According to some sources I read, she thought that believers will be taken away from Necedah by spaceship. Although to be fair, I didn't see this claim in any of the pamphlets given to me.
The Queen of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace Shrine is an interesting place to visit. It is amazing that it still exists. It is kind of sad to see the desperation in the eyes and voice of the true believer that we talked to, as he tried to inform us of the coming greatness for a shrine that seems to have it's glory days all in the past.
Oh, by the way, we were not yelled at for being improperly dressed.