Before my weekend trip there, I had been trying to recall if Necedah was the home of a religious site of some sort. I thought I remembered a write-up in the paper a couple years ago. And sure enough, I saw signs directing to the shrine. We were intrigued, so Deb and I went to take a look.
It's officially called The Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of World Peace, but is also just known as the Necedah Shrine. The grounds consist of a welcome center and a walkway around a series of glassed-in grottoes featuring statues of many saints and biblical figures--Michael the Archangel, Joan of Arc, Mother Cabrini, St. Ann, Francis of Assisi, and a particularly gruesome Crucifixion scene, among others.
We've learned that this is the site of a series of alleged apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to a farm woman in 1950. The "messages" she received were of the heavy anti-Communist and fire and brimstone variety. The apparitions, and the farm woman who claimed to have seen them, were discounted and discredited by the local church authorities and the hierarchy from the beginning.Some of the visions involved, um, a spaceship coming to transport the faithful, a spaceship driven by a 1,200 year old man.
Still, the woman had her devotees who built the shrine and maintained it over the years.
The followers had ambition--they planned and began construction on a large church. Now, nearly 60 years later, many of the original adherents have died off. And the interdicts of the institutional Church have taken their toll. The construction has long since been abandoned. The whole place has pretty much fallen off the mainstream radar and makes for some sad and incongruous scenery.
The site is now maintained by a group called the Old Catholics--a schismatic group who firmly hold to the old ways, apparently sometimes skirting civil law to do it. They see satanic influence in Church modernization, expect the end of the world imminently , and still rail against "godless Communists", immodest dress, and uppity women.
The rhetoric definitely ventured into "Mary as goddess" territory. The welcome center was full of the sort of materials that depict dead fetuses and apocalyptic imagery.
Some religious sites are full of a sense of peace and welcome. This place was not like that. Unsettling would be a word I'd use. I won't go back.