Rhoda Wise—Wife, Mom, Convert, Stigmatic and Mentor to Mother Angelica

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

From 1942: Rhoda Wise; second from right: Rita Rizzo, age 19 (Mother Angelica) on right                                                         mysticsofthechurch.com

By Larry Peterson

The year was 1904 and Rhoda Wise was terrified. The sixteen year old girl was experiencing searing pain which was exploding in her lower abdomen. She was taken to Wheeling Hospital in Wheeling, West Virginia where she was about to have surgery to remove her ruptured appendix. She had no idea she was about to experience a turning point in her young life.

While she was recovering from her operation a Catholic Sister came to visit her. The nun gave Rhoda a St. Benedict medal. Rhoda told the nun that her parents, who literally despised Catholics, would never allow her to keep the medal. In fact, Rhoda was sure they would be furious that it had been given to her.

Sister put the small medal inside a locket that Rhoda had. The sixteen-year-old was so moved by the kind gesture that she kept that medal for the rest of her life. It also started her thinking about Catholicism.

Rhoda was born in Cadiz, Ohio on February 22, 1888. She was the sixth of eight children. Her dad, Eli Greer, was a bricklayer and her mom, Anna, was an active member in helping Civil War veterans. They were staunch Protestants and Rhoda grew up confronted by an unyielding Catholic bias. Most of Rhoda’s friends harbored anti-Catholic sentiments but she did manage to have a few Catholic friends.

Rhoda married Ernest Wissmar in 1915. Ernest was a widower from Canton, Ohio, and Rhoda moved there with her husband. Six months after their marriage, Ernest, a plasterer, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on a job site and passed away. Rhoda, soon after being widowed, met George Wise, himself a widower, and they were married in January 1917.

Rhoda loved George very much but he was a drinker and Rhoda would spend many married years confronting ongoing financial troubles, embarrassments and the many challenges that accompany the disease of alcoholism. Among these challenges was having to move seven times as George’s drinking caused him to have to frequently find new jobs.  Through it, all, Rhoda, did her best to remain upbeat.

In 1931, Rhoda developed a huge, 39-pound ovarian cyst. This cyst was so large there was no doctor in Canton who would attempt to remove it. A doctor in Wheeling agreed to do it.  The downside was Rhoda was told she might not survive the operation. Rhoda agreed to the surgery anyway.

She survived the operation but her gallbladder was affected and had to be removed. Soon after the gallbladder surgery, she developed a painful bowel obstruction which had to be surgically repaired. Rhoda was never the same after this and then, in 1936, she stepped into a sewer drain severely damaging her right leg.

Her foot turned inward and, combined with a recurring infection, kept Rhoda Wise in and out of hospitals from that point on. Every few months it was now back to the hospital for new casting or additional surgery on her leg in attempts to straighten her foot. Besides the now chronic pain, she had to endure, Rhoda’s immediate future saw her being confined to bed most of the time.

Rhoda’s first of many visions occurred while hospitalized and with George and Anna Mae, their adopted daughter, present. Rhoda saw Jesus as the Good Shepherd standing by the window. She told George and Anna Mae but they saw nothing. George thought she was hallucinating.

One of the nuns at Mercy Hospital, Sister Clement, a Sister of Charity, befriended Rhoda. Sister had a great devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux and gave Rhoda a small shrine of the “Little Flower” to put by her bed. Rhoda then asked Sister if she could hold her Rosary. When Sister handed it to her the Crucifix was very warm and Rhoda immediately asked Sister Clement to teach her about the beads. Graces were beginning to explode within her.

Rhoda fell in love with the Rosary and prayed it several times a day. She then asked Sister if she could make a novena to St. Therese. She had developed a brutally painful stomach cancer which was considered incurable. Jesus appeared to Rhoda on May 28, 1939, and told her He would come back with St. Therese on June 28.

Jesus returned as promised and, with St. Therese standing by His side, Rhoda’s incurable, open wounded stomach cancer vanished without a trace. On August 15, 1939, St. Therese visited Rhoda again and her cast broke apart and fell from her twisted foot. The foot was perfectly normal.

For lack of space here I shall finish this by mentioning a young woman by the name of Rita Rizzo. Rita was nineteen and suffered from what they called a “dropped stomach”. Her belly appeared discolored and deformed and the pain was excruciating. She went to see Rhoda who gave her a novena to St. Therese and told her to say it for nine days.

During the early morning hours on the ninth day pain exploded in Rita’s abdomen and then stopped. In the morning when she looked at her belly it appeared normal. The discoloration and deformity were gone and so was the pain. She had been cured and the pain never returned again. Rita Rizzo became Mother Angelica and founded EWTN. Rhoda Wise was the moving force in Mother Angelica’s becoming a nun.

On Good Friday, April 3, 1942, Rhoda Wise was given the Stigmata of the Crown of Thorns. Every Friday after,  until her death on July 7, 1948, her forehead would bleed from noon until 3:00 pm.

14,000 people showed up for her funeral. Countless cures were attributed to Rhoda and countless souls returned to Christ because of her. Ironically, Rhoda always felt the greatest miracle she witnessed was the day George stopped drinking and never had another drink as long as he lived.

Rhoda Wise has been declared a Servant of God and her cause for sainthood has begun.

We the Servant of God; Rhoda Wise, to pray for us all.

There is much to the story of Rhoda Wise. To learn more please visit the link  http://rhodawise.com/