On September 10, 2007 New York City welcomed the arrival of the statue of "Our Lady of America" in preparation for the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 events. This statue has its origins in a private revelation that was given fifty years ago to an American nun, Sister Mary Ephrem (Mildred Neuzil), of the Precious Blood Sisters (1933-1979) who was later a Contemplative of the Indwelling Trinity (1979 - until her death on January 10, 2000).
Sister Mary Ephrem said she was asked by The Blessed Virgin Mary to draw a picture according to the vision of Our Lady of America and have a statue constructed accordingly and placed after a solemn procession into the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C.. The Blessed Virgin Mary wishes to be honored in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Washington D.C. as Our Lady of America. Our Lady says that if this is done, the United States of America would turn back toward morality and the shrine would become a place of "wonders."
This devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of America enjoys complete canonical approval through former Archbishop of Cincinatti, Ohio, the late Paul Francis Leibold, who approved in 1963 for public devotion this private apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Sister Mary Ephrem. Furthermore, many other Bishops have also shown their approval by their promotion of this devotion.
More recently, on May 31, 2007, feast of the Queenship of Mary, the Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Louis, Missouri, issued a letter of opinion on Our Lady of America. He stated that, "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."
It was on the eve of the feast of the North American martyrs, September 25, 1956, that Our Lady appeared to Sr. Mary Ephrem. Her first words were: "I am Our Lady of America," said The Blessed Virgin. "I desire that my children honor me, especially by the purity of their lives."
In 1938, Sister began to have what seemed like mystical spiritual experiences. She thought little of them, presuming all religious have them. As these visits took on the nature of a specific program of devotion to Mary which Sister was asked to propagate, she then turned to Monsignor Paul F. Leibold. Monsignor Leibold, later Archbishop of the Cincinnati, Ohio Archdiocese, would be her spiritual director from many years until 1972, when he suddenly died due to an aneurysm.
Archbishop Leibold had become so convinced of the authenticity of this message that he approved Sister's writings and placed his imprimatur on the design of the medal. Our Lady had asked Sister to have struck a medal that would bear the image of Our Lady of America on the front and the symbol of the Christian Family and the Blessed Trinity on the back.
Our Lady said to Sister Mary Ephrem, "If my desires are not fulfilled much suffering will come to this land. My faithful one, if my warnings are taken seriously and enough of my children strive constantly and faithfully to renew and reform themselves in their inward and outward lives, then there will be no nuclear war. What happens to the world depends upon those who live in it. There must be much more good than evil prevailing in order to prevent the holocaust that is so near approaching. Yet I tell you, my daughter, even should such a destruction happen because there were not enough souls who took my warning seriously, there will remain a remnant, untouched by the chaos who, having been faithful in following me and spreading my warnings, will gradually inhabit the earth again with their dedicated and holy lives."
Now, let's go back to the triumphant journey of the statue for the 9/11 anniversary. On Sept. 8, the statue left the cathedral of St. Louis, Missouri, for New York City. The 9-foot statue was met by the Jackson Mills, New Jersey Fire Department and transported to the Holland Tunnel where it was then met by officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The tunnel was closed off to all traffic and Our Blessed Queen, with a police escort, passed through the tunnel and then went directly to St. Peter's Church, one block from "Ground Zero" (where the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed). St. Peter's is the oldest Catholic church of New York City, and also the sanctuary where Fr. Mychal Judge's body was laid after he was killed by falling debris while ministering to victims of 9/11.
While still in its protective box, the statue is transported to the Holland tunnel, leading to Manhattan Island.
The statue is carried into St. Peter's church, placed in front of St. Joseph's statue.
Firemen are proud to be photgraphed with the statue of Our Lady.
The memorial ceremony began September 11th with a 9:00 am Mass in the church of St. Peter's followed by the recitation of the Rosary after which the statue was moved from the front of the church out to the portico where it could be viewed by all. Throughout the day throngs of people passed through to admire her, to pray and to learn her message.
At 3:00 pm Our Blessed Mother was raised onto the Newark, New Jersey Fire Truck. The same truck that had been used for the funerals of the firemen killed on 9/11/01 and was led in procession following behind New York's Engine # 10 which had lost the most firemen during the 9/11 tragedy. (A total of 354 firemen and paramedics died in the fall of the two towers.)
Captain Jose Rodriguez and Deputy Chief Richard Zeiser
The procession visited the site of Ground Zero and then continued on to St. Patrick's Cathedral. People followed in the street, taking pictures and crying out: "We love you Blessed Mother!"
Arrival in front of St. Patrick's cathedral
With honors befitting the Queen of Heaven She was then solemnly carried into the Cathedral and temporarily placed in honor in a grotto in the front of the Church. It is Our Lady's desire that one day she be raised to the altar in the Basilica in Washington, D.C. under the title of Our Lady of America.
Every year the Pilgrims of St. Michael take part in the March for Life in Washington, DC. With our small "army" of young leaflet distributers we deliver our message to the participants in the Pro-Life March. It was at the Pro-Life March in 2003, while spreading Pope John Paul II's "Apostolic Letter on the Rosary", that one of the families where we stay to sleep every year suggested that the message of Our Lady of America would be very appropriate for the Pro-Life March. Our Lady's first words to the seer Sr. Mary Ephrem Neuzil on September 26, 1956 were: "I am Our Lady of America. I desire that my children honor me, especially by the purity of their lives."
The following year, 2004, we distributed 46,000 copies of the message of "Our Lady of America" at the Pro-Life March. Since then 1.6 million have gone throughout the United States. Recently, volunteers in the metropolitan NY/NJ area requested and distributed over 100,000 copies of Our Lady's message. (You can still order copies from us.)
We believe that in a very humble way, the Pilgrims of St. Michael have contributed to the spreading of Our Lady of America's message and making this devotion known here in the United States.
Dear Lady of America, you promised that those who would follow you wholeheartedly in the great battle against evil, and live that purity of life that is so pleasing to God, would bear the special title of "Torchbearers of the Queen". That torch being Divine Love. We the Pilgrims of St. Michael, humbly offer ourselves and our families to you. May we show to all by our lives that there is great joy in serving so great a God and so glorious a Queen and may your triumphant entry into New York City be the beginning of the establishment of the triumph of your Immaculate Heart in our own hearts, in our families and in our Nation.
Yves, Anne-Marie Jacques and family