The Bad Old Days

A dear friend who was recently on a family vacation in Wisconsin went above and beyond the call of duty. Way beyond. When she returned, she presented me with a clutch of souvenirs from the Queen of the Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of Peace Shrine in Necedah, Wisconsin, a place she knew holds some fascination for me.

She explained that her family waited in the car while she ran up and went in the gift shop. She announced to the person working there, “I’m Jewish! I’m just here getting a few gifts for a friend. What would you recommend?” She also noted that she was happy the family stayed in the car, since there was a whole wall of fetus statues and the like.

I looked over the items. I gasped when I saw the postcard of the Seven Sorrows of our Sorrowful Mother Infants Home (Home for Unfortunate Infants).

“Is this real??

“Yes! It’s right out of—”

Lemony Snicket,” we said in unison.

“I can’t believe this exists,” I said.

“It’s like something out of the past,” she said. “When they used to send girls off for a semester.”

“And then there’d be secret, semi-legal adoptions.”

“I heard that they have to pay to get out of there if they don’t want to give up their babies.”


I tucked the items into my handbag, out of sight of the children. My daughter is very curious, and I didn’t want to scare her. The other postcard Elisa had purchased was also terriflying, featuring a particularly waxy-looking statue of “Mary.” There was also a little bag of “sacramental” items including some blessed salt.

Q (I think I know the answer!): If “blessed” salt has been blessed by schismatics, does it still “count?”

A: Not in a million years.

I don’t know what to do with this stuff. Can’t just throw it away or pour it down the drain. I may have to put it in a secure, sautered tin like Lyra does with the spy-fly in The Golden Compass.

The idea of a nonofficial shrine tickled my curiosity, especially when the Vatican recently announced that the first and only site of Marian apparitions in the US were also in Wisconsin. It doesn’t seem coincidental. What are they trying to divert attention from? Now I know. The Necedah people claim to still be 100% in communion with Rome, but I’ve already got all the proof I need that they are not. I refer, of course, to the sign in front of their Infants’ Home. Redundancies abound. Seven Sorrows of Our Sorrowful Mother? Infants Home (Home for Unfortunate Infants?) Anyone with a proper Catholic education would rather eat bacon on a Lenten Friday than commit such linguistic atrocities in plain sight.

There’s also a sinister little booklet describing Ms. Mary Ann Van Hoof’s “visions” of the Virgin. Apparently the Virgin said, “‘Have you no hearts ticking in your bosoms of love? Or is it only ‘let me be, gimme, gimme?'”

No. The Queen of Heaven would not say that. She would also not say “One of these days, some of you will be sorry. You will think back about what you were told. For the other races are not destroying themselves. The white race, they are too busy with other things.” Shades of the Quiverfull movement. Shudder.

I assured Elisa that Necedah was unofficial and commended her for her bravery since, after looking the stuff over, I worried that announcing herself as a Jew might not have been the best move. But at least she wasn’t alone. If she hadn’t have come out in say, 15 or 20 minutes, her husband Jason would have gone looking for her. But oh no! What about the kids???

Maternity homes are baa-aaack. Be warned, young females, especially in Wisconsin. Someone may approach you as you pull a home pregnancy test off the shelf at the drugstore, offering to “help.” Run, girls! Run!

Mary Valle lives in Baltimore and is the author of Cancer Doesn't Give a Shit About Your Stupid Attitude: Reflections on Cancer and Catholicism. She blogs on KtB as The Communicant. For more Mary, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.