Nothing was bigger news in the fall of 1950 in central Wisconsin than Mary Ann Van Hoof and her claims of receiving visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Van Hoof farm near Necedah. Members of the Hanneman family of Mauston, had great devotion to Mary, and they were among 50,000 people in Necedah on October 7, 1950, when Van Hoof received the eighth of her reported visions of Mary.
The front page of the Wisconsin State Journal the next day recounted the alleged vision this way:
“Mrs. Fred Van Hoof said she saw the Virgin Mary in a vision for the eighth time Saturday and was told in a ‘last warning’ to pray for peace. The gaunt farm wife, who said last August that the Virgin would appear to her Saturday noon in a blinding light, walked from her shabby home at the appointed hour, knelt in prayer and raised a crucifix to a statue of the Virgin. At that moment, the sun burst through rain clouds which had hovered over the humble farm most of the morning, and a murmur swept through the crowd estimated by state police at 50,000 persons. After a few minutes, Mrs. Van Hoof arose and addressed the mingled throng of curious and claims to have done on previous visitations. ‘This is the battle for peace for all of you,’ she said. ‘Prayer, my dear children, will bring you peace.’ ”
A priest from Watervliet, Michigan, who was also in attendance that day befriended the Hanneman family. Rev. Father Victor A. Fortino of St. Joseph’s Church in Watervliet, cautioned 17-year-old David D. Hanneman to wait for Catholic Church authorities to approve the alleged visions before he placed too much stock in them. “I hope that what transpired at Necedah will receive the approval of the Church authorities, for without it, we simply cannot believe Mrs. Van Hoof’s claims even though you and I enjoyed the same experience during the alleged apparition of Oct. 7,” Fortino wrote in a letter dated October 27, 1950.
Father Fortino warned that Satan has appeared to Saints and sinners alike posing as the Blessed Mother and as the Crucified Christ, so it is crucial that the Church rule on the Van Hoof apparitions. “I want to warn you about something,” Fortino wrote. “DO NOT AS YET ACCEPT THE NECEDAH STORY AS TRUE. WAIT UNTIL THE ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITIES HAVE DECIDED ON THE CASE.”
As it turned out, Fortino’s words were almost prophetic. In June 1955, Bishop John Treacy of the Diocese of La Crosse officially rejected Van Hoof’s visions. “Because of the continued promotion of the claims made by Mrs. Mary A. Van Hoof of Necedah, Wis., we, by virtue of our authority as bishop of the diocese of La Crosse, hereby declare that all claims regarding supernatural revelations and visions made by the aforementioned Mrs. Van Hoof are false. Further more, all public and private religious worship connected with these false claims is prohibited at Necedah, Wis.” As early as August 1950, Bishop Treacy had said Van Hoof’s claims “are of extremely doubtful nature.”
Father Fortino may have suspected the Necedah claims would turn out to be false, but he wrote that some good could come from the gathering that week in 1950 no matter what. “It seemed to me that Our Lady brought us together for Her own good purposes,” Fortino wrote. “What She intends for us, I do not know. But I hope that much good will come out of our chance meeting and our mutual experience in Necedah.”
Despite the controversy over Van Hoof and her claims, the Hanneman family maintained strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Carl and Ruby Hanneman kept a beautiful porcelain statue of the Blessed Mother in their Mauston home. After their deaths that statue found a place at David Hanneman’s residence in Sun Prairie. And it sat in front of the altar at his funeral Mass on April 19, 2007.
©2014 The Hanneman Archive