Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Kathi L. Kern


Marian apparitions in the United States have occurred in ever-increasing numbers since World War Two, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. These apparitions occupy a unique space in religious life, as they provide opportunities for Catholics to practice their faith outside of the Church hierarchy while still maintaining their status as faithful Catholics, often placing women in prominent positions. Although apparitions are an important part of faith for thousands of American Catholics, most Americans and Catholics are unaware of how widespread this movement is. This dissertation takes a comparative approach to examine a selection of apparition events, illuminating the pilgrimage experience in connection to historic events, such as the Cold War and Vatican II, as well as issues of race, gender, class, and consumerism.

Chapter One focuses on the apparition events at Necedah, Wisconsin which began in 1949 and continued until the visionary’s death in 1984. Chapter Two offers an explanation of Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church council in the 1960s that changed the way Catholics worshiped, but also the relationship between members and Church authorities, and the way many Catholics perceived their identity. Chapter Three addresses apparition events at a variety of sites in Ohio and Kentucky through most of the pertinent time period, with a particular emphasis on the pilgrimage experience and parachurch organizations. Chapter Four discusses apparition events at Conyers, Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s, especially the economic effects that resulted. Chapter Five examines apparition events in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, and Emmitsburg, Maryland, which demonstrate the appeal of these events across race and class. In addition to secondary sources by historians, religious scholars, anthropologists, and sociologists, the dissertation uses newspaper accounts, publications by visionaries and their associated organizations, diocesan archival material, and interviews conducted by the author with religious leaders, believers, journalists, city officials, and neighbors to explore how apparition events have attracted thousands of believers despite the lack of official approval by the Roman Catholic Church and how the areas where these events take place have been affected.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

George Herring Fellowship for Dissertation Research, Department of History, University of Kentucky, 2010.

Constant H. Jacquet Research Award, Religious Research Association, 2008.

Dorothy Leathers Graduate Fellowship, Department of History, University of Kentucky, 2008.

Kentucky Oral History Commission Project Grant, 2008.

George Herring Fellowship for Dissertation Research, Department of History, University of Kentucky, 2007.