An Ohio-native, Rhoda Wise was a mystic and stigmatic who healed Mother Angelica in her ‘miracle house’ and inspired her to become a nun.
In the early 1930s, Rhoda Wise found herself living in a three-room “depression shack” near the Canton, Ohio city dump. She began developing serious health problems and started to turn towards the Faith during a stay at a hospital operated by Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine under the Diocese of Cleveland.
She befriended the sisters who taught her how to pray the Rosary and about the life of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She prayed often to ‘The Little Flower,’ and had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, officially being received into the Church in January of 1939.
Less than half a year later, Wise was diagnosed with an incurable stomach cancer and sent home to live out her life. She prayed profusely, and on the 28th of May received a vision of Christ saying he would return in one month’s time with Saint Therese.
On June 28th, they appeared at her house and cured her stomach cancer along with an open wound on her abdomen that had bowel exposed. From then on, she received visions every year on January 2nd, Saint Therese’s birthday.
Wise later developed the stigmata, and news of her visions and miraculous healing in her home spread. Many wrote to her or visited her home seeking spiritual advice or healing of their own ailments. On nights she would expect a vision, large crowds would gather outside her home.
One such visitor – Rita Rizzo, later known as Mother Angelica, was brought to Wise’s house by her mother in 1943 hoping to cure a chronic, painful stomach condition. Rizzo was instructed by Wise to carry out a novena to Saint Therese, and was made to promise she would spread the saint’s devotion if she was cured.
On the final day of the novena, she awoke with no pain and the mass in her abdomen had disappeared. She believed it was a miracle, and credits her lifelong commitment to Christ to that moment.
“At that point I knew that God knew me and loved me and was interested in me. All I wanted to do after my healing was give myself to Jesus.”
Wise continued receiving visions for the rest of her life, totaling 28 by the time of her death in 1948. Her daughter kept the home open to the public for 47 years until her own death, then willing the property to Mother Angelica.
In 2003, a prayer chapel was erected next to the home, the Grotto of the Sacred Heart and Little Flower. Today, hundreds visit from all over the United States and Canada to visit the room where Wise received her visions and seek their own spiritual and physical healing. The Rhoda Wise Shrine, the grounds and chapel, are considered a private association of the faithful approved for pilgrim’s devotions.
In 2016 the Diocese of Youngstown declared Wise a Servant of God, putting her on the path to sainthood. In 2018, the results of an investigation into her life and writings were submitted to Pope Francis in hopes she would be declared Venerable.