A great deal of the information below is directly from the website PatronessofAmerica.org to present the determination of the statements of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and others is accurate in light of the past history of this devotion. To make sure that all the facts are represented correctly on the status of Our Lady of America, I have used significant information verbatim from their website.
This includes the Singular Decree from Bishop Rhoades of November 3, 2020, which is printed in its entirety below. This is the official position (present) of Bishop Rhoades on the status of Our Lady, Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of America – in short, Our Lady of America. The press release dated December 8, 2021 is also included at the very end, which gives updated information on other issues at the Center. The Singular Decree by Bishop Rhoades is his position on the status of the five-page Decree signed by six bishops, dated May 7, 2020, called the Statement Regarding the Devotion of Our Lady of America, on the messages of Sister Mildred Neuzil.
The most essential element for the reason of the judgment from the May 7, 2020 Decree, was that the bishops declared the messages of Sister Mary Ephrem Neuzil were “not of supernatural origin in the sense of objective occurrences.” They stated, “that they are more to be described as subjective inner religious experiences rather than objective external visions and revelations.” The bishops described Sister as, “honest, morally upright, psychologically balanced, devoted to religious life, and without guile…no evidence that she was perpetrator of a hoax or the victim of delusion.” In many ways, this is a positive judgement by the bishops.
I, like many of the lay faithful were waiting for many years that the statue of Our Lady of America would be processed into the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., by bishops as the Blessed Mother requested. It was originally asked through Sister Mary Ephrem Neuzil, C.Pp.S (Mildred Marie Neuzil), and what became known as the messages of Our Lady of America. As the world watched the incremental moral decline of the United States, and the near destruction of many of its institutions, the faithful knew that the promise to America being restored to purity per the Blessed Mother’s request could alleviate the pain that we have all watched from the collective insanity that sin has wrought upon the American Church, families, and culture, over the last several generations. The devastation has been at this point incalculable and visible for all to see. The lay faithful have been waiting in joyful hope, asking for God’s grace to restore our land. Those who know the messages, feel that if Our Lady’s request is granted, the restoration process can begin.
The findings placed a positive light on Sister Mary Ephrem, the devotion, their fruits, and the place at Rome City—Kniepp Springs, the birthplace of the devotion. There were many issues for the bishops to consider and I will get into the issues of concern and the reason for the six Bishops’ statement.
A Discerning Church
The Bishops of Competence met to determine the course for this growing devotion, which has survived the decades, was gaining interest, and had produced great fruits. Since Mary Ephrem claimed that the devotion was the result of apparitions, the Church needed to determine if this was indeed the case. This led the six bishops to initiate the Church’s process for making such a determination by forming a Commission, led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to follow the process as outlined in The Vatican Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations.
The process was introduced by the Vatican in 1978, six years after the death of Archbishop Leibold. The process requires a Commission to investigate the virtue of the visionary, the message in light of Church Doctrine, fruits, miracles and other matters (suffering). Much like the process of determining sainthood, determining supernaturality is among the most stringent in the Church.
Why are the standards so high? Because Satan, the master of deceit is very clever in leading the faithful astray. Hence, the Church has an innate duty to protect us against false doctrine and teachings. The Church would much rather fail to find an authentic apparition as supernatural than to proclaim a false apparition as authentic. This for our protection and we must rely upon our shepherds for this discernment.
There are three possible outcomes for a study:
“constat de supernaturalitate,” affirms the supernatural origin of the events;
“non constat de supernaturalitate,” expresses a decision based on the insufficiency of facts and elements of proof to either affirm or negate the supernatural character of a presumed private revelation;
“constat de non supernaturalitate,” negates the supernatural character of the facts/events which were examined.
The finding here is the second (2). Its meaning can be confusing. What it means: there is not enough evidence (at this time) to find definitively for supernaturality, but the possibility remains that it may be supernatural.
Until there is reason to change this determination, the faithful may practice the private devotion as nothing stands in the way. How the faithful may practice this devotion is subject to the local bishop, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has opened the way for this to go forward. He has given Our Lady, the Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of America a place to perform her miracles of grace, should she so desire.
Mystical and supernatural phenomena have a very broad spectrum of meaning and occurrence in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Fatima and Lourdes were well-known apparitions that had circumstances where there was a fairly rapid approval of the occurrence(s) of Our Lady’s messages. However, Saint Faustina and Saint Therese of Lisieux were just two people who have been declared canonized saints in the Church, that had circumstances relating to deep mystical experiences, and the Church considers them divinely inspired. These mystical experiences have produced great fruit.
Historically, there isn’t just one path to what many would call “supernatural,” and the approbation of the hierarchy. There are several roads that lead to the same summit for the approval process.
The Singular Decree of Bishop Rhoades (and five other Bishops) dated July 29, 2019, on page four states the following:
“Regarding spiritual fruits, there are numerous reports of good fruits, including some conversions, spiritual refreshment and consolations, and even some physical healings at the Rome City site of the alleged apparitions. However, upon study of these reports, we cannot conclude that any of these events are conclusive enough to warrant certification as miracles. It seems likely in such personal contexts of faith and prayer, God’s graces were received.”
Looking at the nature and the quality of the experiences themselves, we find that they are more to be described as subjective inner religious experiences rather than objective external visions and revelations. A well-known author describes this critical distinction stating: ‘Simply put, religious experience as distinct from private revelation is recognized as highly subjective’
(Benedict Groeschel, A Still Small Voice, San Francisco, CA. 1993, p. 129), and further: The vision of Bernadette[…i] s something clearly outside herself. It is not primarily subjective. There is an experience that seems to fall between the two, between the obvious personal experience of Therese, in which emotion, will, and intelligence are completely involved, and that of Bernadette […]. These descriptions, are that of Saint Therese, serve to illustrate that religious experience of a type very different from private revelation is possible to all’ (Ibid, pp.130-132).
Thus, while it may be said there is possibly an authenticity to Sister Neuzil’s subjective religious experience, we do not find evidence pointing to her experiences as being in the category of objective private revelation. Sister Neuzil herself describes her experience as “inner vision” (p. 143), and we find that her experiences were of a type where her own imagination and intellect were involved in the formation of the events. It seems that they were authentically graced moments, even perhaps of a spiritual quality beyond what most people experience, but subjective ones in which her own imagination and intellect were constantly engaged, putting form to inner spiritual movements. However, we do not find evidence that these were objective visions and revelations of the type seen at Guadalupe, Fatima, and Lourdes.
I first learned of the alleged messages to Sister Neuzil in the late 1980’s, and Signs and Wonders magazine (now in its 33rd year of operation) has done three feature articles on the alleged messages, with the latest being the Fall/Winter 2018 issue. There has always been great enthusiasm for the bishops to declare the alleged messages authentic and worthy of belief, so the faithful could see the promises of Our Blessed Mother for America come to fulfillment. This article is to bring awareness of the exact status of Our Lady the Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of America, and the official Church position.
I, as many others, had lost contact with the most up-to-date information until recently, thus this update.
***The rest of this article can be found in Signs and Wonders Summer 2022 Special Double Issue available now! Become a member today to receive this issue!