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.