It was on the eve of the feast of the North American martyrs, September 25, 1956, that Our Lady appeared to Sister Mary Ephrem. Beginning in 1938, Sister began to have what seem 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 for 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 promised that greater miracles than those granted at Lourdes and Fatima would be granted here in America, the United States in particular, if we do as she desires. Sister Mary Ephrem stated that Our Lady called herself Our Lady of America in response to the love and desire that reached out for this special title in the hearts of her children in America. For example, Our Lady repeatedly spoke approvingly about the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. This new title is a sign of Our Lady’s pleasure in the devotion of her children of America towards her and this visit is a response to the longing, conscious or unconscious, in the hearts of her children in America.
On the evening of the feast of the Most Holy Rosary, October 7, 1957, Our Lady again appeared. Her hands were clasped in an attitude of prayer. Her look was serious, though her countenance retained its usual deep serenity. Hanging from her right hand was a blue rosary of a glass-like quality, I was conscious of the fact that what she was about to say to me was not only very grave but of the utmost importance. Our Lady reiterated in a similar manner her first warnings:
My beloved daughter, what I am about to tell you concerns in a particular way my children in America. Unless they do penance by mortification and self-denial and thus reform their lives, God will visit them with punishments hitherto unknown to them.
My child, there will be peace, as has been promised, but not until my children are purified and cleansed from defilement, and clothed thus with the white garment of grace, are made ready to receive this peace, so long promised and so long held back because of the sins of men.
My dear children, either you will do as I desire and reform your lives, or God Himself will need to cleanse you in the fires of untold punishment. You must be prepared to receive His great gift of peace. If you will not prepare yourselves, God will Himself be forced to do so in His justice and mercy.
Making the rosary a family prayer is very pleasing to me. I ask that all families strive to do so. But be careful to say it with great devotion, meditating on each mystery and striving to imitate in your daily lives the virtues depicted therein. Live the mysteries of the rosary as I lived them, and it will become a chain binding you to me forever. They who are found in the circle of my rosary will never be lost. I myself will lead them at death to the throne of my Son, to be eternally united to Him.
Write these words upon your hearts, my dear children, because of the compassion I have for you in my Immaculate Heart. Oh, if you knew the punishments I am holding back from you by my pleading and intercession on your behalf!
Will you do as I wish at last, my children? (Messages)
On October 13, 1956, Our Lady again appeared as Our Lady of America, but instead of a lily in her hand, she held, with both hands, a small replica of the finished Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
This is my shrine, my daughter. I am very pleased with it. Tell my children I thank them. Let them finish it quickly and make it a place of pilgrimage. It will be a place of wonders. I promise this. I will bless all those who, either by prayers, labor, or material aid, help to erect this shrine.
According to Sister Mary Ephrem, Our Lady often emphasized her desire that the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., be made a place of special pilgrimage and that she be honored there under this image and the title “Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin.”
Strong warnings were repeated by Our Lady throughout 1957 and 1958, and thereafter, indicating that the hour grows late and Sister must tell the Bishops of the United States of Our Lady’s desires and how she wishes them to be carried out. Our Lady spoke:
Unless my children reform their lives, they will suffer great persecution. If man himself will not take upon himself the penance necessary to atone for his sins and those of others, God in His justice will have to send upon him the punishment necessary to atone for his transgressions.
In August 1957 the Blessed Virgin said;
What am I to do, child of my heart, when my children turn from me? The false peace of this world lures them and in the end will destroy them. They think they have done enough in consecrating themselves to my Immaculate Heart. It is not enough. That which I ask for and is most important many have not given me. What I ask, have asked, and will continue to ask is reformation of life. There must be sanctification from within. I will work my miracles of grace only in those who ask for them and empty their souls of the love and attachment to sin and all that is displeasing to my Son. Souls who cling to sin cannot have their hands free to receive the treasures of grace that I hold out to them.
The Blessed Virgin Mary has promised that her statue as Our Lady of America once placed in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception would be a safeguard for our country, and her picture or statue honored in all homes, a safeguard for the family. She also promised that the medal would be a safeguard against evil for those who wear it with great faith and devotion.