The Cult At Necedah

The following article was written in March 1985 to help people not to fall into the trap that I and so many others fell into at the cult in Necedah, Wisconsin.  Unless otherwise specified, all the direct quotations and references as well as further information can be found in the 125-page booklet, "The Holy Catholic Church and Private Revelation" (see: ) which was handed out by Bishop Francis DiBenedetto on May.31, 1983 in the Shrine Men’s Home Chapel.



My Personal Reasons Why I Left the Shrine at Necedah, Wisconsin


Reasons For Going To Necedah

After signing up over 2000 people door to door in my home town during a two-year period to pray an extra hour each week to help fight abortion in the "Constant Vigil of Prayer" while being a Legion of Mary member, I left California to go to Necedah with the intention of better serving God through His holy mother in the new religious order at Necedah, Wisconsin under Bishop Francis DiBenedetto, FFSC.  Being somewhat repelled and disgusted with the behavior and fruits of some of the Catholic clergy, I went to Necedah with the desire to serve God feeling that I had found a good holy environment directed by heaven itself by which to more easily help save my soul and the souls of others.  I thought I had found another Fatima or Lourdes in the midst of much confusion and problems in the world and in the Church herself.


I put my whole heart and soul into becoming a good religious.  In the mean time I heard from time to time strange or at least non-coherent things about either the Shrine organization or Mary Ann Hirt (Van Hoof) or the Old Roman Catholic Church.  But each time that I heard a strange or surprising fact or rumor such as disobedience to the lawfully seated local ordinary of the La Crosse diocese or a sign up list for a space ship guided by "Alex" before the chastisement or a schismatic church or …,  I tended to rationalize or explain away each one in turn in the context of the whole of seemingly good fruits or people at the Shrine or just human weakness, and then I would forget about it just as so many others around me at the Shrine were doing.


Blindness To Blatant Problems At The Shrine

What were some of the possible reasons or influences that caused me to slough off so easily or at least not to take a closer look at these inconsistencies and blatant problems?  One reason was that I tended to compare and conclude that these problems at the Shrine were smaller than the problems of many clergymen outside of the Shrine.  With the help of my fellow Shrine friends, I had slowly grown accustomed to hearing and speaking and even amplifying out of proportion and context the problems and faults of the lawful and valid clergy of the Catholic Church especially those priests and bishops who had supposedly not treated us Shrine members properly or at least the way we wanted or demanded to be treated.  I usually received this calumnious or detracting or distorted information second, third, or fifth hand of which I readily accepted as true and in the given context due to my slanted frame of mind when I first came to Necedah.  Looking back, I can see more clearly how our weak but prideful human natures would naturally prefer to point the finger at others, especially clergy, rather than at ourselves.  As we continued to develop this critical habit and spirit toward others, we automatically increased our esteem of ourselves and our own opinions while becoming more blind to our own faults and sins as well as the reality of our personal situation at the Shrine.


Another reason helping to develop as well as cause this critical spirit toward others, especially the clergy, was the natural tendency to feel that I was special to be called or chosen by God to serve the Mother of God at her special Shrine while. judging the majority of men offending God and heading toward hell.  I naively felt that the "apparitions" at Necedah were true, infallible, God-sent apparitions to straighten out a corrupting Church.  But I failed to realize that as I was gaining confidence and complacency in myself, I was slowly undermining and loosing my confidence in my precious but delicate faith in my only infallible and indefectible authority on earth, the Holy Catholic Church.  How easily one can loose his faith especially if one only listens to talk about the bad side, even if seemingly true, or listens to talk that is unsubstantiated rumors even from the mass media or speculations of idle gossip about so-called "traitorous" bishops and heretical cardinals or "Black Popes", or supposed "modernists" or "liberals".  I later learned that there had been many heresies throughout the history of the Church which began with the seemingly good intention to reform the problems in the Church but ended up losing their precious faith and abandoning the indefectible Ship founded by Christ by gradually setting themselves above the Church and her lawful representatives.  The heretical sect, the Waldensians, in the 13th century, began by over reacting to bad bishops and then ended up anti-clerical.  The followers of Joachim de Fiore spoke of their age as the age of the Holy Spirit (1260 and on) and thus they felt they no longer needed to obey Church authority.  The vast majority of the schismatic and protestant churches began with seemingly good intentions of reform during scandalous and rebellious times but ended up cutting themselves off from the one true Vine, the Holy Catholic Church.


As time went on, a third major reason that caused me to think that there was light at the end of the tunnel was the fact that many seemed to be sincerely seeking union or at least recognition from Rome as evidenced by the several trips to Rome from 1979 to 1983 by Bishop Francis DiBenedetto and accompanying clergy or Shrine members.  But what I did-not fully recognize (or at least not understand the full significance of) was that during all these trips we were consciously or unconsciously avoiding or at least trying to conveniently circumvent obedience to the local ordinary of the diocese due to the fact that he (Bishop Freking) did not do and say what we wanted him to do and say concerning our petitions or even our mandates to him.  Thus, since we felt we were absolutely right and directed by "heaven", considering ourselves as almost the "last remnant" or even the salvation of the Church, we circumvented the lawful authority of the La Crosse diocese, Bishop Frederick Freking.


Told By Rome To Obey – The All-Important Individual (Test) Decision

Finally, after Bishop Francis came back from Rome in February, 1983 after talking to Cardinal Oddi and other Church officials, we learned that Rome was telling us that we must work directly with the local ordinary of the La Crosse diocese.  Now we were faced with a major decision!  Was I, and each one of us individually affiliated with the Shrine, of good will and truly seeking the truth and the holy will of God no matter how much it hurt? or not?  We were being told by Rome to humbly submit to the direction of the Bishop whom we had so often over the years undermined and degraded by our talk.


During the preceding visits to Rome, the Church officials tended to encourage Bishop Francis in his quest to establish a new religious order.  But in reality, we should have eventually expected this mandate of obedience from Rome as soon as Rome received and put together all the necessary communication and correspondence from the lawful Bishop of La Crosse.  Just as a prudent principle of a school will solve a problem working through his teachers under him rather than by-passing the teacher and going straight to the student, so too, the Pope will solve a problem working through his bishops under him rather than going straight to the priest or laymen or group of laymen who are under the lawful jurisdiction of the seated bishop.


When I fully realized the impact and consequences of the directives from Rome, I knew then that the light at the end of the tunnel was gone.  I wanted sincerely to know and do God’s holy will.  Through the grace of God and the knowledge and study of my basic rudiments of my Catholic faith, I knew there was no hope for the Shrine or the new (unofficially Shrine-affiliated, to a certain degree) religious order if we were not attached to the one true indefectible Vine.


Also at this time I discovered that way back in 1955 the local ordinary of La Crosse, Bishop Tracy, had forbidden any public worship on the Shrine grounds; this order was later reaffirmed by Bishop Freking in the late sixties.  I also had previously learned that the new order of sisters of the "Seven Sorrows of Our Holy Mother", who were operating the "Infants Home" at the Shrine, initially petitioned the bishop of La Crosse for canonical recognition, as a religious order, of the Church . But as soon as the bishop of La Crosse asked this new organization to move to another house offered by the diocese of La Crosse and to operate under the diocese of La Crosse rather than the Shrine organization, "For My God and Country", they refused to submit to the lawful representatives of Holy Mother Church, but even later went against the direct orders of the La Crosse diocese of proclaiming themselves and dressing themselves as a Catholic order of religious sisters.  I had also previously learned that when Bishop Freking had ordered that the different individual shrines be covered up during the mid-70’s, the Shrine members initially submitted to this order, but as time went on, the Shrine members became more impatient and began to put pressure on the unapproved "seer", Mary Ann Hirt (Van Hoof), until finally, less than a year or so later, "heaven" supposedly said to uncover the small individual shrines.  This supposed revelation from "heaven" by an unapproved "seer" was in direct disobedience to the lawful authority of the Church which Christ Himself founded.  Shortly after this forthright disobedience, Bishop-Friking imposed valid and signed official interdicts on Mary Ann Hirt and several other Shrine members.  The Shrine organization, "For My God and Country", was asked at least once to submit to the jurisdiction of the La Crosse diocese but they refused.  The organization, "Constant Vigil of Prayer", under the jurisdiction of "For My God and Country", was ordered out of the parishes of the La Crosse diocese.  It is also interesting to note that the schismatic Old Roman Catholic Church itself was initiated and founded several hundred years ago in Holland on an act of disobedience by consecrating their own bishop without the permission or approval from Rome and thus remained schismatic with valid orders from that point on.


Thus, through God’s grace and mercy, the scales were finally falling from my eyes.  I could finally begin to see the overall picture from the prospective of Holy Mother Church.  The Shrine organization was in disobedience, the group of women dressing and proclaiming themselves as religious were in disobedience, the "Constant ..Vigil of Prayer" organization was in disobedience, Mary Ann Hirt was in disobedience, (the Old Roman Catholic-Church was founded on disobedience 300 years ago in Holland); all under the banner of "heaven says" from an unapproved supposed seer.


We "Shriners" demanded the virtue of obedience to an unapproved "heaven says" but were disobedient to the lawful representatives (of God) of the One True Church that Jesus Christ the Son of God founded.  We were disgusted with disobedient bishops and priests or liberal theologians telling bishops what to do but were we not doing the same thing in our own rationalized way?  We naively felt that we were following true, infallible messages from heaven to straighten out a corrupting Church.  But if we only obey the particular authority that we agree with and that we have chosen according to our own thoughts and personal criteria, we are only obeying ourselves even though we feel confident and comfortable in our personally-formed consciences that we are obeying God Whom we do not see and hear with our physical senses as we do a bishop or priest who directly and visibly represents God.  King Henry VIII, Martin Luther and all the Protestant reformers felt they were called to straighten out the one true Church founded by Christ during scandalous and rebellious times.  But is this not absurdity or blasphemous to directly insinuate and believe that the infinite Son of God does not have the power to keep His promise of founding His One Church that would last until the end of time?  Some Protestant reformers and their initial followers of good will later, through the grace and mercy of God, returned to the One Fold, Holy Mother Church, before death after they saw the whole picture and situation that they had put themselves in.  But many persisted in their self-righteous campaign feeling that they were called to "reform" the One True Church, the same Church that was promised to last to the end of time by the Son of God Himself with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  Did these supposed reformers (as well as persistent Shrine members) feel that the Son of God was not good enough or powerful enough to found a Church, made up of sinners, that would last to the end of time?  Did they not know that the divine attribute of the Church of perpetuity or indefectibility means that the Church, as Christ established it, will last until the end of time?  Among other reasons and false motives, the deserters did not seem to know their faith well enough to realize that the divinely founded and guided Church on earth (the "Church Militant") is made up of sinners, not confirmed saints or angels.  As history proves, the Church has always had weak sinners and traitors as well as great saints and defenders of the faith within her ranks.  But the divine Ship on the stormy waters of life will continue to the end of time to sail to her appointed destiny, the "Church Triumphant" in Heaven, loaded with all those faithful and true followers of her divine Founder, Jesus Christ, loaded with those who have persevered steadfast despite the alluring attractions of seemingly prettier false ships or false groups on the sea of life.


Joseph Dwight


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