Van Hoof, Mary Ann (1909–1984)
Mary Ann Van Hoof, who reported apparitions of the Virgin
Mary at Necedah, Wisconsin, for a quarter of a century beginning
in 1949, was born Mary Ann Bieder on July 31, 1909,
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Kenosha County,
Wisconsin, in a German-speaking family and attended
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Van Hoof, Mary Ann
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school only through the eighth grade. As a young woman she
married Godfried Van Hoof, and together they had eight children.
They moved to Necedah, Wisconsin, in 1942.
Van Hoof had her initial brief apparition of the Virgin on
November 12, 1949, which happened to be the anniversary of
the last apparition of a set of appearances by the Virgin that
had occurred the previous year in Lipa, Philippines. The following
spring, beginning on April 7 (Good Friday), Van Hoof
experienced a set of apparitions that called for a large shrine
to be established for Marian devotion. Subsequent apparitions
occurred on May 28 (Pentecost Sunday), May 29 and 30, and
June 6 (Trinity Sunday). By the time of the June apparition,
many had heard of Van Hoof seeing the Virgin, and a large
crowd gathered. With the announcement that Mary would return
on August 15 (marked by Roman Catholics as the feast day
of the Assumption of Mary into heaven) and October 1 (the
feast day honoring the rosary), the story became news and articles
began to appear in newspapers throughout the Midwest.
In the meantime, the local Roman Catholic priest became
aware of the apparitions and sent an initial report to his bishop
in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The bishop issued an initial statement
decrying any sensationalism associated with the apparitions
and launched a study of Van Hoof’s claims. Van Hoof believed
the apparition told her the American Catholics must rededicate
themselves to prayer and peity, or the Korean War would be the
beginning of the end for America. She also indicated that the
Soviets would invade the United States and Alaska would be
‘‘the first stepping stone.’’ Prior to the August apparition, the
diocesan paper called them into question. In spite of many
bishops discouraging the faithful from attending, crowds estimated
in the tens of thousands were present for the last two apparitions
of 1950. Over the next few years the apparitions continued,
and not only did people travel long distances to be
present, but several hundred relocated their residence to Necedah.
An organization emerged and the shrine that began at the
location of the apparitions grew into a set of related shrines.
In 1955 the bishop gave a more definitive ruling. He suggested
that Van Hoof’s claims to supernatural visitation were
false and prohibited all religious worship at the shrine, now
named after Mary’s appearance as the Shrine of Our Lady of
the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace. Van Hoof and her supporters
were disappointed but continued in hope of a reversal
of the ruling. Reminiscent of the apparition of Catherine Labouré
in 1830, in 1957 Van Hoof was shown the design of a
medal for the unity of church, home, and school, which was
later struck and distributed.
Finally, in 1975, the bishop of La Crosse placed Van Hoof
and her followers under an interdict, one step short of excommunication.
They were denied access to all sacraments except
confession. The interdict did not stop work at the shrine. Two
years later Van Hoof announced plans to build a large sanctuary
on her property, which she had inherited when her husband
died in 1960.
In 1979, the final break with the Roman Catholic Church
came as Van Hoof developed a relationship with Edward Michael
Stehlik, the archbishop of a small independent church,
the American National Catholic Church. She also pushed
ahead with plans to build a home for infants and organized an
order of nuns. Stehlik consecrated the shrine, which had grown
into a sizable place of pilgrimage, but two years later Stehlik left
the shrine. He denounced Van Hoof as a fraud and returned
to the Roman Catholic Church. The scandal accompanying
Stehlik’s departure hurt Van Hoof, but did not affect many who
had come to support her apparitions. Her visions of the Virgin
continued, the work of the shrine grew, and several books appeared
with texts of the apparitions and accounts of Van Hoof
by her supporters.
In 1978, Van Hoof married Raymond Hirt. By this time, a
pattern of pilgrimages to the shrine on the anniversaries of the
1950 apparitions had been established. Van Hoof died on
March 18, 1984. She was buried at the shrine her visions inspired.
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.