Sister Mary Ephrem
(Mildred Neuzil), a Precious Blood Sister, was a semi-cloistered [lived
in a cell but taught school children] nun in 1938 when she began to
have interior locutions and other mystical experiences. It was not for
another ten years before her confessor learned of them; he advised
prudence because sometimes these occurrences are a result of an
overactive imagination. However, the mystical events became more pronounced
and vivid. She wanted to become fully cloistered, which she did,
when her community established a cloister and she was permitted to
enter in 1958.
She gave no external signs that she
was different from any other
member of the Community.
she began to write about these occasions of special communication with
God. These were read by another priest to whom she had gone for
direction: there was nothing in them contrary to faith and morals, nor
anything to indicate mental instability. In fact, the great emphasis on
the Indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, gave evidence of a deep a
theological understanding surpassing that which he had been taught. In
1954 these visits from Heaven involved a
special devotion to Mary which this Sister was commanded to promote the
Message of Mary, who presenting herself under the title, Our Lady of
Archbishop Paul Leibold was Sister's spiritual
director from 1940 to 1972, when he died. He authorized the first
the second printing of these messages and had the metal of Our Lady of
St. Joseph, March 1958
"Fatherhood is from God, and it must take
once again its rightful place among men. My special protection of the
Holy Father and the Church should be made known to him. God wishes to
make this known to him that he may receive thereby renewed consolation
"Jesus and Mary desire that my pure heart,
so long hidden and unknown, be now honored in a special way. Let my
children honor my most pure heart in a special manner on the First Wednesday of the month by reciting the Joyful
Mysteries of the Rosary in memory of my life with Jesus and Mary and
the love I bore them and the sorrow I suffered with them. Let them
receive Holy Communion in union with the love with which I received the
Savior for the first time and each time I held Him in my arms."
Mildred Mary Neuzil
Our Lady of America Most
Reverend Raymond L. Burke
Archbishop of St. Louis
In a letter to the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Burke, then the Ordinary of St. Louis,
Missouri, now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, revealed the results
of his review of the history and canonical status of devotion to Our
Lady of America.
May 31, 2007 — Feast
of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
To the Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic
Dear brothers in Christ,
During the November meeting of our Conference of
Bishops, you may have had occasion to view the statue of Our Lady of
America, which was displayed in one of the meeting rooms; and to
receive one of the Our Lady of America prayer cards or other
information about Our Lady of America, which was available, thanks to
the devout lay faithful who made the arrangements for the display of
the statue. The faithful involved in the promotion of the devotion to
Our Lady of America have asked me, some months ago, to review the
history and present state of the devotion to Our Lady of America, in
what pertains to its canonical status. Finally, I am able to give
them a report of the results of my study, which I want also to
communicate to you.
The devotion to Our Lady of America has its source
in private revelations to Sister Mary Ephrem (baptized Mildred) Neuzil,
who was born in 1916 and was
professed, in 1933, in the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Precious
Blood of Jesus, which has its generalate in Dayton, Ohio. She later
became part of a contemplative branch of the same congregation. The
contemplative branch was located at Our Lady of the Nativity Convent at
New Riegel, Ohio. After the suppression of the contemplative branch in 1979, the Sisters who were
members took up residence in Seneca County, Ohio. From the time of the
suppression, Sister Mary Ephrem used her baptismal name, Sister Mary
Mildred Neuzil. Sister Mary Ephrem (Mary Mildred) died in 2000. One of
the Sisters survives and continues to live in Seneca County, Ohio.
Having reviewed the correspondence between Sister
Mary Ephrem and her spiritual director of many years, Monsignor Paul F.
Leibold, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, who later
became the Bishop of Evansville and, then, Archbishop of Cincinnati, it
is clear that the devotion, asproposed by Sister MaryEphrem, received his approbation.
In addition to the correspondence by which Monsignor Leibold declared
the approval of the devotion, he also carried out the first of Our Lady
of America's requests, made through Sister Mary Ephrem, namely, he had
a medal struck with the image of Our Lady of America on one side and
the coat of arms of the Christian family on the other.
The coat of arms symbolically represents the
substance of the private revelation received by Sister Mary Ephrem,
namely, the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity in the Christian home,
which is the source of life and unity in the family. The coat of arms
points to the purity and selflessness of love in the family, because of
the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity, the model of which isthe Mother of
God, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of our
nation. In a particular way, Our Lady of America expressed her desire
that the United States of America, through her intercession, be devoted
to the purity of love. She identified herself to Sister Mary Ephrem as"Our Lady of America, The Immaculate Virgin." In the consecration
of our nation to our Blessed Mother, made in 1959 at the National
Shrine and renewed, in our name, by Bishop David Ricken on November 11,
2006, the Saturday before the November meeting of our Conference of
Bishops, our Blessed Mother is addressed as "Immaculate Virgin."
The contents of the private revelation received by
Sister Mary Ephrem were published in a booklet, first in 1960, and,
again, in 1971. Both of these editions were published with the Imprimatur
of Archbishop Leibold. A final edition, with some new contents, was
published in 1989. The new contents were added at the direction of
Father Edmund Morman, S.V.D., the last chaplain of Our Lady of the
Nativity Convent at New Riegel. Father Morman was sadly killed in an
automobile accident on February 17, 1986.
As Archbishop of Cincinnati, Archbishop Leibold
commissioned a wooden plaque with the image of Our Lady of America,
which he gave to the cloister at New Riegel, at which it was displayed
for many years in a public area. He had the wooden plaque created for
the specific purpose of its use in processions at the New Riegel
Archbishop Leibold also authorized the Weberding
Woodcarving Shop at Batesville, Indiana, to carve a statue of Our Lady
of America. The statue was carved for Our Lady of the Nativity Convent
at New Riegel, Ohio, at which public devotions to Our Lady of America
were regularly celebrated.
Other bishops have permitted the public display of
a statue of Our Lady of America for devotion. For instance, the late
Bishop William G. Connare of Greensburg permitted a statue to be
displayed at the Carmel of the Assumption at Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Also, a statue of Our Lady of America was carried in procession in the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in
Washington, D.C., on several occasions by the Apostolatus Uniti and
other groups. On May 31, 2006, a statue of Our Lady of America was
enthroned at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of
the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama, by the Franciscan Friars
of the Immaculate. The statue which was enthroned at Hanceville is the
very same statue which Bishop Connare authorized for public devotion at
A specific request of Our Lady of America was that
her statue be placed in the Basilicaof the National Shrine of
the Immaculate Conception. There is a providential connection between
Sister Mary Ephrem and the late Archbishop Bishop John Francis Noll of
the Diocese of Fort Wayne, who is celebrated as the Apostle of the
National Shrine. The principal apparitions of Our Lady of America to
Sister Mary Ephrem took place in the chapel of the Precious Blood
Sisters Convent in Kneipp Springs Sanitorium, near Rome City, Indiana.
Archbishop Bishop Noll, who died in 1956, maintained a summer residence
at the Sanitorium, within a few hundred feet of the place of the
apparitions. While the National Shrine is the largest shrine in the
world at which there was not a previous apparition, the private
revelation to Sister Mary Ephrem very much confirms the mission of the
The prayer attached to the devotion also received
the imprimatur of the then Monsignor Leibold, Vicar General of the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Archbishop Leibold was Sister Mary Ephrem's
spiritual director from the time that he was Vicar General of the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati until he died in 1972. Archbishop Leibold was
always clear that the approved devotion had its origin in private
revelation received by Sister Mary Ephrem over many years.
What can be concluded canonically is that the
devotion was both approved by Archbishop Leibold and, what is more, was
actively promoted by him. In addition, over the years, other Bishops
have approved the devotion and have participated in public devotion to
the Mother of God, under the title of Our Lady of America.
Although the devotion to Our Lady of America has
remained constant over the years, in recent years the devotion has
spread very much and has been embraced by many with special fervor.
Seemingly, as has been suggested by Father Peter Damian Mary Fehlner,
F.I., in his homily of August 5, 2006, at the Shrine of the Most
Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, the moral crisis of our time, which
demands a new teaching and living of the virtue of purity, has found an
especially fitting response of loving care from the Mother of God in
her message to Sister Mary Ephrem.
Some have raised with me the canonical question
regarding the status of Our Lady of the Nativity Convent in Seneca
County, Ohio, which has been the residence of any remaining member of
the suppressed contemplative branch of the Congregation of Sisters of
the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. In response, I observe that the
canonical question has no bearing on the devotion or its approbation.
As one deeply devoted to fostering the devotion to
Our Lady of Guadalupe in our nation, I have wondered about the
relationship of the devotion to Our Lady of America to the devotion to
Our Lady of Guadalupe. Archbishop Leibold, in fact, raised the question
with Sister Mary Ephrem. Sister Mary Ephrem responded that Our Lady of
Guadalupe is Empress of all the Americas, whereas "Our Lady of America,
The Immaculate Virgin," is the patroness of our nation, the United
States of America. The two devotions are, in fact, completely
harmonious. As our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II reminded us,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New
Evangelization, draws all of the nations of America into unity in
carrying out the new evangelization. Our Lady of America calls the
people of our nation to the new evangelization through a renewed
dedication to purity in love.
I hope that the above may be of some help to you in
responding to questions regarding the devotion to Our Lady of America.
May the Immaculate Virgin intercede for the
intentions of our dioceses and our nation. With fraternal gratitude and
esteem, I remain
Yours devotedly in Christ,
(Most Rev.) Raymond L. Burke Archbishop of Saint Louis
Sister Mary Ephrem died January 10, 2000 in Fostoria, OH.
The devotion has the approval
of the Church [the local bishops] since 1963.
Novena Prayer for Our Country
Our Lady of America, Lily of Purity, intercede for our country during
the coming elections. Since thou art the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of
the true God, obtain for us from the Most Holy Trinity a President and
other political leaders who will support life, who will change the laws
to make abortion in any form illegal, and who will protect the life of
each individual at every stage.
Our Sweet Mother, intercede for us that our next President will be a
man of God who will help the United States become a country of great
purity and high morality. A country that will uphold family life and
influence other countries throughout the world to love God above all,
to serve Him and to live for Him alone.
Our Sweet Mother, time and again thou hast given us your gracious
assistance and thus we humbly and gratefully acknowledge thee as Queen
of America. Intercede for us now, as we beg for the end of abortion in
our country and for the uprising of a culture of life.
We place our hope and our confidence in thee! Our Lady of America, pray
for us and may Our Eternal Father shine His light upon this country and
the whole world. Amen.