Category Archives: Faith

God Bless America – A Beacon and a Promise

It was just after daybreak on a Saturday when Father M.W. Gibson climbed to the spire of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. In a bold sign that faith and patriotism go hand in hand, he hoisted an American flag onto the spire, where it waved in the breeze for all to see. It was April 20, 1861 and the War of the Rebellion had just broken out. Father Gibson wanted to remind area Catholics what was at stake in defending the country’s sovereignty.

Later that same day, a crowd of 1,000 people gathered in Racine’s Market Square (now called Monument Square) and marched north across the Root River to St. Patrick’s. They sought to thank Father Gibson for his patriotic statement. Gibson implored the crowd to recall that the country for which their forefathers lived and died was calling to them. The time had come, he said, to answer that call.

BeaconPromise

This true story is from a ceremony I wrote for the Knights of Columbus in 2009 to honor the American flag and those who have died defending it.

“Let us commit to always honor our flag and protect it. Protect it from enemies without – and within – who seek to diminish its honor, lower its stature or desecrate it in protest.”

Those words were used in a ceremony providing a reverent retirement by fire for American flags that were no longer fit for service. On this Independence Day, they also offer a look at how previous generations viewed the United States and the symbol of its freedom. We quoted the stirring words of Father Raymond Mahoney, who as chaplain of the Racine Knights of Columbus penned a poem in May 1920 honoring the American flag:

“Heaven itself is unfurling the flag of the land we love, and I hear Columbia telling her children the story of how the flag came to be”

In the blood that they gave for the cause of right
A thousand true martyrs lay
And the angel that tends on hero souls
Came down at the close of day
To gather them in, and to carry them
Before the Lord of all
Then as over their forms she kindly stooped
Her snow white wings let fall

On the ground that their blood had incarnadined
And it left on them a stain
And she feared that the Master would chide her
When she came to His presence again
Because on those wings once so undefiled
Now glowed that crimson stain

But as she passed on through the evening skies
The souls to her bosom clung
She tore from the skies a bit of the blue
And over her shoulders flung
That azure so deep, that was star begemmed
In thought perhaps it might
When she came to the throne of the Master, hide
The stain of blood from sight

So she lay at his feet those hero souls
And bent low with wings outspread
And he saw that those wings were star sprinkled blue, and white, and bloody red
He asked what it meant, why the wings were stained
In fear the angel said
“Oh, the red is the blood that theses heroes spilled
The blue is Your own fair sky
And with it I have sought to hide the stain
Lest it displease Your eye”

“The stain on your wings,” he answered her
“Is truly a blessed one
And is always the mark of a crimson tide
That for liberty has run

“For it tells of service and sacrifice
Of a life and a death or right
And the blue speaks of hope, the white as truth
Sends forth a welcome light
To gleam for mankind as for travelers beams
The building star of night

“Spread out your wings o’er the universe
That all who behold may see
The flag that speaks of love, truth and hope
The virtues that make men free”

You can watch the entire flag retirement ceremony below.

Read More: Flag Retirement Ceremony Script

Read More: Father Mahoney’s Flag Tribute

 

Mulqueens Major Donors to Build St. Patrick’s in Askeaton

The Mulqueen family that came from Ireland to settle near Askeaton, Wisconsin, donated today’s equivalent of $15,000 to help build St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in 1908. The donation amounts from four Mulqueen family members are etched into a marble monument in the narthex of the church in southern Brown County, Wisconsin.

A recent visit to the tiny hamlet of Askeaton unearthed more details of the Mulqueen family that settled there in the 1850s. These pioneers are the ancestors of Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. (1895-1965), who grew up on his grandparents farm just a couple miles from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

Mulqueen_Donors
The names of Mary, James, Daniel and Thomas Mulqueen are etched into the donor monument at the back of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Askeaton.

On the southern wall of the narthex of the church is a beautiful marble monument with the roll of donors who put up the funds to build the new St. Patrick’s that was dedicated in 1908. It replaced the previous church structure that had been across the road on land that is now part of the parish cemetery. The family matriarch, Mary (Corcoran) Mulqueen, donated $100, while her sons Daniel Jr., Thomas and James donated a total of $500. The $600 Mulqueen family donation represents at least $15,000 in 2017 dollars. For this hard-working farm family, this was no doubt a major sacrifice. Overall, parishioners raised the 2017 equivalent of $475,000 to build the church.

One thing is clear looking at the monument and examining some of the early church books: the family name was Mulqueen, not the McQueen that appears on headstones in St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery across the street. The two surnames seemed to be used almost interchangeably, but the Mulqueen spelling is what appears in church records.

StPatricks_School_Askeaton
The old St. Patrick’s Catholic School on the edge of cemetery property in Askeaton, Wis.

St. Patrick’s is a stunning church with an arched ceiling and a collection of some of the most beautiful stained glass windows you will ever see. The windows depict saints and scenes from the New Testament, including Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Resurrection, the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, St. Michael the Archangel, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Guardian Angel, St. Patrick and more. Mass is still said here twice a week.

It is very clear looking at the church, the two former school buildings and the well-kept cemetery that the Catholic Church has always been at the heart of life in Askeaton. Even before the Irish immigrants could build the first church in Askeaton, they attended Mass in each other’s homes. Before long, though, they built the original St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and had a full-time resident priest. Earl Mulqueen and his  younger sister Elizabeth no doubt received First Holy Communion and Confirmation in this church.

15,000 Attend 1918 Field Mass at Camp Dix

More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers, along with friends and relatives, took part in a May 1918 field Mass at Camp Dix at which they heard the president of Fordham University declare the Allies would win World War I because “God wills it.”

I don’t recall exactly where I obtained my photo of this incredible event. Nor do I know how the photo was captured. The panoramic view made for a photo print that is easily 3 feet wide. It stretches from the Knights of Columbus hospitality hall all the way to the end of the crowd.

1918 Field Mass at Camp Dix
More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers and their families took part in a field Mass at Camp Dix.

Held on the parade grounds of Camp Dix, N.J., the Mass was read by Father Patrick J. Hayes, who would later become a cardinal and archbishop of New York. Mass included a patriotic sermon by Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Mulry S.J. of Fordham University. “Dr. Mulry assailed the slacker who uses religion as a cloak for his cowardice,” wrote The New York Times. “He declared it was not only the country that is calling the men of the fighting nations, but God also.”

“We must not enjoy a dishonorable peace,” Mulry said. “Go forth, Christian men, to aid the boys who are in the trenches. They are holding them for you. Victory will come. God wills it.”

Bishop (later Cardinal) Patrick J. Hayes said Mass at the Camp Dix parade grounds in May 1918.
Bishop (later Cardinal) Patrick J. Hayes said Mass at the Camp Dix parade grounds in May 1918.

Mulry had long supported the Allied war against Germany. At a Knights of Columbus field Mass in May 1915, Mulry said 20 million Catholic men were prepared to back President Woodrow Wilson should the United States join the war. His sermon stressed the idea of a patriotic Catholic, something that was often under attack by Protestants.

“The Catholic of today puts into the state not the wavering intellectual culture of Athens, not the physical splendor of Rome, nor the deadly energies fostered by materialistic evolution,” Mulry said. “Not the ungodly tendencies  of modern mechanical idealists, but the undying strength featured by the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.”

“If the crisis were to come today, the Knights of Columbus would be the first to rally to the flag,” The New York Times wrote, quoting Mulry. While he gets his religion from Rome, Mulry told the gathering, “the Catholic soldier will lay down his life for his country and as he clasps the cross in his hands, his heart blood will ebb for faith, for country and for God.”

Soldiers take advantage of free newspapers, candies and other personal items at a WWI Knights of Columbus hut. (Library of Congress)
Soldiers take advantage of free newspapers, candies and other personal items at a WWI Knights of Columbus hut. (Library of Congress)

The Knights of Columbus put its young men up to fight, but that was only part of the expansive, unprecedented war work carried out by the K of C locally and abroad between 1917 and 1921. The Order pledged an initial $1 million to establish a war relief fund. The money helped establish a vast network of more than 300 war relief centers in the U.S. and across combat zones in Europe. These Knights of Columbus “huts” offered a place to unwind, but also supplied soldiers with scarce creature comforts like chocolates, cigarettes, candies and hot chocolate. (The large K of C hut at Camp Dix is visible at left in the panoramic photo.) Soldiers from many countries and religious denominations came to know the K of C emblem as a welcome sight. Each K of C war center hung a prominent sign for all to see: “Everyone Welcome. Everything Free.” The nickname “Casey” became synonymous with the Knights of Columbus staff at the relief centers. A typical soldier’s response upon meeting a K of C worker was, “Hello, Casey. Have you got any chocolates and doughnuts?”

Father Mulry attempted twice to retire from his job at Fordham so he might go to France and enter war work. On the third attempt in 1919, he did retire from his post at Fordham. He was so anxious to go overseas that he offered to pay $5,000 a year toward the salary of his successor. He died in Philadelphia in August 1921 at age 47 after a long illness.Two of his brothers were also priests. His other brother, Thomas M. Mulry, was a bank president, philanthropist and 1912 winner of the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame.

Sadly, Father Mulry’s patriotism isn’t always remembered fondly. Fordham University’s archivist in 2014 described Mulry as “sort of a warmonger” whose speeches did not sound like those of a Catholic priest. The patriotic fervor in his talks, she contended, “was all for image.” This modern attitude fails to appreciate the deeply held patriotic views of many priests during World War I. Men like Father Raymond Mahoney, former pastor of St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Father Mahoney was known for  his patriotic sermons, including a memorable talk on liberty and the American flag. That will be the subject of a forthcoming article.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Remembering the Real Christopher Columbus

It seems every year the politically correct trot out a growing list of indictments against the great explorer Christopher Columbus. As we observe Columbus Day in the United States this October 12, some will claim Columbus was an oppressor. Others will wrongfully accuse him of racism. To get a real sense of why Columbus is under constant attack, remember that while he was a great explorer, he was first and foremost a faithful Catholic.

Some of the greatest minds in the history of the Church and the have spoken eloquently about the meaning of Columbus and his discovery of the New World in October 1492.

Christopher Columbus was "the destined herald of the true faith," according to Rev. John Hardon S.J.
Christopher Columbus was “the destined herald of the true faith,” according to Columbus scholar Rev. John Hardon S.J.

Father John M. Naughtin, who served as Wisconsin state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the opening years of the 20th century, preached an eloquent sermon on Columbus on October 16, 1910 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine. Naughtin’s audience at that 8 a.m. Mass was a large gathering of Racine Knights of Columbus and their families. (See below for the full text.)

“The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deeds — Christopher mean- ing ‘Christ bearer’ — a messenger of peace,” Naughtin said. “Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe?”

Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, on the 400th anniversary of Landing Day. The Holy Father said this of Columbus: “The greatness of his mind and heart can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.”

The late Father John Hardon, S.J., an expert on Columbus, said the Genoa native  “was the instrument of extraordinary grace.” “It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America,” Hardon said in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. “It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”

Hardon said Columbus’s “phenomenal career on earth was a heroic response to a sublime vocation. He was the destined herald of the true faith to half of the human race.”

Let’s remember this year to celebrate the real Columbus and ignore the nattering of the revisionists.

Homily of Rev. John M. Naughtin, October 16, 1910:

In the annals of history and tradition, no man stands forth more prominently than the man whose deeds we are commemorating today. For although Columbus has been dead about four hundred years, he is just beginning to be appreciated now. Only the infinite knowledge of God himself can grasp the meaning of the work of Columbus.

Father John M. Naughtin said Columbus "worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds."
Father John M. Naughtin (1854-1921) said Columbus “worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.”

Think of what this western world has developed into since Columbus’s time — the home of millions and the homes of millions yet to come — all the work of a simple, practical Catholic man, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese. A man who was not understood in his own country; who many times did not have enough to eat. Italy would not have him; it jeered at him and practically turned him out to find in Spain a welcoming hand and the substantial aid that made his great work possible.

America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Spain. We are told of the deeds of the Caesars, of Napoleon and of Wellington, but all these figures were simply national — striving for one country, but Columbus is a worldwide character; he worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.

The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deed: Christopher meaning ‘Christ-bearer’ — a messenger of peace. Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe? In his youth, Columbus often sat by the seashore and wondered where and whence the great white winged ships came from. No doubt some had been on trips to the Holy Land and the Sepulchre and to follow in their footsteps became his one desire and that one thought dominated his life.

The Racine newspaper carried the account of Father Naughtin's sermon in its Oct. 17, 1910 editions.
The Racine newspaper carried the account of Father Naughtin’s sermon in its Oct. 17, 1910 editions.

Columbus did not belong to the 20th century class of explorers; he did not seek for material gain, but his great Catholic heart was filled with an overwhelming charity and love of God. He founded a home for people from every part of this world’s surface—for all colors, all races and conditions of men. His first act, upon reaching land, true, to his faith, was to fall upon his knees in devotion, dedicating this new world to the Almighty God. He did not crave acres of this new country, but rather that to the souls of these strangers might be brought the knowledge of God. Columbus was great — there have been none greater — but Columbus the Catholic was still greater. It was his faith which gave him the strength and the courage to undergo the trials of his explorations; to undergo, as Christ had undergone, the misrepresentations, the calumnies, the backbiting of his enemies and even to his returning to Spain in shackles after his wonderful trip which resulted in the discovery of a new land.

It is a good thing in this world of ours to have some model. The model we, the Knights of Columbus, have to imitate was, to be sure, a mere man, but great enough and powerful enough to do as God willed. The name Knights of Columbus is very appropriate—the word “knight” typifying everything that is admirable in a man, embracing all the manly qualities and this coupled with the name Columbus, has a wonderful significance.

Even as the attention of the stranger entering New York harbor is arrested by the Statue of Liberty towering for hundreds of feet and standing for the freedom of the new land, so does the greatness of Columbus tower im- measurably above that statue so that the whole world may gaze upon him, and gazing upon him, do him honor.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

FURTHER READING:

16 Years Later, Welcoming Young Jane Home Again

I had the honor and privilege on July 21 to be a witness as we welcomed a special young lady home. She is called Jane, but one day we hope to know her real name. Sixteen years to the day after her beaten body was found in rural Racine County, Jane Doe again found rest at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Caledonia, Wisconsin.

In my day job as director of Racine Catholic Cemeteries, I had the task of making sure this little country cemetery was looking its best for the noon committal of Jane’s body. From October 1999 until October 2013, Jane lay at rest on the western edge of Holy Family Catholic Cemetery.

This composite image shows what Jane Doe might have looked like.
This 2012 composite image from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows what Jane Doe might have looked like.

But for the past 22 months, she was at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office as police gathered new forensic evidence and conducted new tests. The murder investigation is still very active. The Racine County Sheriff’s Department is determined to not only identify Jane, but to arrest her killer or killers. Investigators say Jane was serially abused and tortured in the weeks leading up to her death. She was found on July 21, 1999 at the edge of a cornfield in the Town of Raymond.

The most poignant scene on this beautiful sunny day was that of Tracy Hintz standing alongside the casket throughout the committal service. Hintz is the Racine County Sheriff’s Department lead investigator on the Jane Doe case. She is much more to Jane, who was between 18 and 25 when she was murdered. Tracy is her advocate, protector, guardian and champion. She rode in the hearse from Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home in Racine to Milwaukee, then back again to Holy Family Catholic Cemetery. It seemed she did not want to let Jane go; not without a proper goodbye. That goodbye can’t come until the day the world know’s Jane’s real name.

Tracy wiped a silent tear and momentarily stepped away from Jane’s casket. This case is deeply personal for her. Thank God for that. Look at Tracy’s face and you can see it. She will identify Jane. She will arrest her killer. Then she can return to this beautiful place, point Heavenward and whisper a goodbye and a thank you.

It was a special day to welcome this young lady back. You are loved, Jane. Be assured of that. And you are home.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Click here to watch a soloist sing Amazing Grace at the committal service for Jane Doe.

 

Eye on the Past: Rudolph Grotto Shrine 1958

As many times as I’ve traveled to central Wisconsin, I was not aware of a beautiful, sprawling religious shrine built by a Catholic priest in thanksgiving for having his health restored after a visit to Lourdes, France in the early 1900s. The Rudolph Grotto Gardens near Wisconsin Rapids were the dream fulfilled of Father Philip Wagner, who developed and dedicated the site to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1927.

I learned of Rudolph Grotto Gardens while researching a photo of my grandmother, Ruby V. Hanneman, standing near a statue of St. Philomena in 1958 or 1959. St. Philomena, who was martyred at age 13, is known as the Patroness of the Living Rosary. Her shrine at Rudolph Grotto Gardens was built in 1957 by Edmund Rybicki, Father Wagner’s right-hand man.

The first grotto shrine at the Rudolph site, dedicated to the Our Lady of Lourdes, was completed in 1928. When a young and sick Philip Wagner visited the famous shrine at Lourdes, he promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that if he were healed of his illnesses so he could become a priest, he would build a shrine to her in America. And so he was healed, and was ordained a priest in 1915. He was assigned to St. Philomena Catholic Church in Rudolph in 1917.

Ruby V. Hanneman stands at the St. Philomena shrine in Rudolph in the late 1950s.
Ruby V. Hanneman stands at the St. Philomena shrine in Rudolph in the late 1950s.

Over the years, the site expanded to include the Stations of the Cross, the Ten Commandments, a Last Supper Shrine, A “Wonder Cave” modeled after the catacombs, a Shrine of the Resurrection, a soldier’s monument and more.

Father Wagner and Rybicki labored on the site for decades. After Father Wagner died in 1959, Rybicki became the site caretaker. In 1961, St. Philomena Church was rededicated and renamed St. Philip the Apostle in honor of Father Philip Wagner. The last project at the grotto gardens was finished in 1983. Read more about the site here.

Lavonne Hanneman stands near an arch at the Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.
Lavonne Hanneman stands near an arch at the Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.
Ruby V. Hanneman at Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.
Ruby V. Hanneman at Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.

 

Unpublished Chapter a Portrait of Sainthood for Fulton J. Sheen

From my just-published article in Catholic World Report:

Driven and sustained by his daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen lived an intense life of holiness, zeal to save souls and Christian love that helped make him the most influential Catholic in 20th century America, biographer Thomas C. Reeves says.

Reeves has released a previously unpublished conclusion to his 2002 Sheen biography, America’s Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen. The conclusion chapter, titled “Living Intensely,” covers Sheen’s spirituality, his inspiration and how others viewed his life. While Reeves does not directly promote Sheen as a candidate to be raised to the altars, his book’s concluding chapter is a very tidy summation of Sheen’s merits for sainthood. Reeves is making the chapter available for free on the internet, and has donated it for inclusion in his papers at Marquette University.

Fulton J. Sheen had a long tenure on radio hosting the Catholic Hour on NBC.
Fulton J. Sheen had a long tenure on radio hosting the Catholic Hour on NBC.

“To an extraordinary degree, his mind was on God,” Reeves wrote of Sheen (1895-1979), the prolific author and Catholic evangelist best remembered for his 1950s television series, “Life is Worth Living.” “This supernatural approach to life activated and sustained his enormous energy. He said late in life, ‘the secret of my power is that I have never in fifty-five years missed spending an hour in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s where the power comes from. That’s where sermons are born. That’s where every good thought is conceived.’ ”

Read the rest at the Catholic World Report web site.

 

Catholic Faithful Plant the Cross on Wisconsin Ground in 1863

In every community you will find inspiring stories of courage, faith and perseverance. And so it was the case when I researched the 1863 founding of my hometown parish, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The project lasted several months, and turned up many fascinating stories from the mission-territory days of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.

Stained-glass depiction of St. Paul, from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.
Stained-glass depiction of St. Paul, from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.

Full confession (pun intended): I served as an altar boy for years at Sacred Hearts in the 1970s, and graduated in spring 1978 from the fine Sacred Hearts School. The current church, the third edifice in parish history, has some of the most stunning stained-glass windows you will find outside of a cathedral. That’s what initially drew me to the history of Sacred Hearts.

So what did I learn?

  • The church was founded during the second expansion of Catholicism in Wisconsin (the first being black-robed Jesuit missionaries who explored the territory in the 1600s). Much of the area at the time was untamed wilderness, now being colonized by immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe.

    Rev. Francis Xavier Etschmann said the first Mass in Sun Prairie at the home of James Broderick.
    Rev. Francis Xavier Etschmann said the first Mass in Sun Prairie at the home of James Broderick.
  • The early missionary priests rode circuits hundreds of miles long, often saying Mass in private homes or rustic buildings with no roof. Father Martin Kundig, an indefatigable traveler and founder of many Catholic parishes in Michigan and Wisconsin, had an uplifting experience in 1843. The faithful gathered in a private home for Mass overloaded the floor, and everyone except Father Kundig crashed into the cellar. The people reached up and supported the priest, standing on a narrow plank, so he could finish saying Mass.
  • These pioneers led often difficult lives. The John Sprengel family lost three children to diphtheria within one week in 1882. Emerand Aschenbrucker lost his first wife during the birth of their daughter, Anna, in February 1867. Nicholas Mosel lost his wife to typhoid fever at age 54. The church brought comfort to these grieving families, offering the sacraments and a reverent burial for the departed.

    Founding Sacred Hearts parishioners Mary and Michael Conley.
    Founding Sacred Hearts parishioners Mary and Michael Conley.
  • The Civil War affected every aspect of life during Sacred Hearts’ early years. Two young parishioners died during their wartime service, including one who was wounded in the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and died in a Confederate prison camp. Another died on a furlough in 1864. He was just 15. A third was wounded in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in June 1864.
The 28-page e-book can be found at catholicpioneers.com.
The 28-page e-book can be found at http://www.catholicpioneers.com.

When you set out to research a topic, you never know just what you will find. I found a very fascinating story in the “Catholic Pioneers on the Prairie,” which is what I titled the 28-page e-book that grew out of my research. I invite you to read the whole thing at Catholic Pioneers. View it online or download the e-book as a PDF file.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

New Video Trailer for ‘The Journey Home’

The book about my father’s battle with lung cancer and his final months on this earth has been in print for nearly five years. It seems a good time to update the book’s official video trailer. The new version, posted below, is in high definition. Back when the original trailer was created, HD video was still fairly novel. But now HD is the norm on home televisions and computers, so it was time to upgrade this important promotional video. You can also view the video in a larger format here.

Priest Advises Caution About October 1950 Marian ‘Apparition’

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:

Mary Ann Van Hoof at her farm near Necedah, Wisconsin.
Mary Ann Van Hoof at her farm near Necedah, Wisconsin.


“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.’ ”

Rev. Father Victor A. Fortino
Rev. Father Victor A. Fortino

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. 

The Van Hoof farm near Necedah, Wisconsin, was the site of reported visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Van Hoof farm near Necedah, Wisconsin, was the site of reported visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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 Victor Fortino urged David Hanneman: "be very careful."
Father Victor Fortino urged David Hanneman: “be very careful.”

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