Growing numbers of Americans are looking with horror at what has become of our Church and country. Moral confusion and indifference to human life is common. Legal boundaries continue to be stretched to favor abortion, same-sex marriage and pornography without limits. Finally, the Church seems to be rotting from within from a massive problem of homosexuality among the clergy, including bishops and cardinals, as reports surface of a number of homosexual bishops preying on seminarians.
But we must take heart. Societies have broken down before and caused great human misery — but help did come. In times past, Our Lord sent His Blessed Mother to rescue His people in the midst of similar evil and suffering.
In fact, our times bear similarities to the Mexico of 500 years ago, a time when human life was also vulnerable to the powers of the state. In that case, it was the Aztec rulers who were brutally sacrificing hundreds of thousands of human beings on pagan altars. Then, in 1531, God sent Mary to a humble peasant, Juan Diego, and through this now canonized saint offered to an entire country the Christian message of peace and hope. In just 20 short years, nine million Aztec pagans were converted to Christianity by people’s obedience to the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In that famous and beloved apparition, Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as Our Lady of the Americas, to signify her motherly care over all the countries of the western hemisphere.
Five centuries later, many people believe that Our Lady appeared again under a similar title, Our Lady of America, to signify her care over our specific country, the United States of America.
This series of apparitions began in 1956 in Indiana and continued over three decades into the 1980s. They earned the approval of the local bishops. However, today, few Americans are aware of these appearances of Mary, who identified herself under a new title Our Lady of America. Perhaps people believe that they can solve today’s problems without extraordinary help from God.
In any case, when Mary began appearing to a quiet nun in Indiana, religious devotion was common in the U.S., and the legal system largely respected faith institutions and their constitutionally protected role under the First Amendment. But a troubled future was rapidly approaching — if we only knew. Today, we appreciate the prophetic quality of her message, as Mary reached out like a good mother with warnings for our country’s future, warnings which clearly fit our confused and troubled 21st century.
Our Lady’s appearances were made to Sister Mildred (Mary Ephrem) Neuzil (1916-2000) while she was living in Rome City, Indiana and later, in Fostoria, Ohio. Our Lady told Sister Mildred that troubling times were ahead, specifically for the United States of America. Yet Mary also held out encouragement and hope — that, yes, America can be reformed and many lives will be saved if people will turn to God and turn away from sin, especially sins of sexual impurity.
You may well be asking: since there have been so many bogus and unconfirmed apparitions — why believe in this one?
Most important of all, this apparition earned the support and approval of Paul F. Leibold auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati, who gave the imprimatur to the messages of Our Lady of America first in 1960 and later in 1971 when he was Archbishop of Cincinnati. As Archbishop of Cincinnati he also commissioned a statue and a devotional medal. In 2007 Archbishop Leibold’s action received the support and encouragement of Cardinal Raymond Burke, at the time Archbishop of St. Louis. In a letter to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops dated May 31, 2007 he wrote this about devotion to Our Lady of America: