Canton, Ohio: Rhoda Wise House and Grotto
About Rhoda Wise:
Born in poverty in Cadiz, Ohio in 1888, and growing up in what was basically a three-room shack, Rhoda Wise was destined to become a mystic….although no one would have guessed at the time. Her parents, as well as most of her friends, were Protestant, and vehemently anti-Catholic. In 1904, at the age of 16, she developed severe abdominal pains and had to have surgery to remove a ruptured appendix.
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 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, among which was having to move seven times, since his drinking resulted in him frequently losing jobs and having to find another one.
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, but she 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 on June 28 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. You can see the cast here at the Rhoda Wise House.
On April 3, 1940, Jesus told Wise: “This place is to be a shrine, and cures more wonderful than your own will take place on this spot.”
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.
Rhoda Wise died on 7 July 1948, which was then the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Four thousand people showed up for her funeral. Countless cures have been attributed to her intercession 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.
The connection to Mother Angelica:
Rita Rizzo, also from Canton, was nineteen at the time, 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 went on to become a nun….we know her best as Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, the largest religious broadcasting network in the world. Rhoda Wise was the moving force in Mother Angelica’s becoming a nun.
About the Rhoda Wise House and Grotto:
Rhoda Wise’s Home is open Monday through Friday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and 11:00 am – 3:00 pm on the first Saturday of the month. Closed holidays. Also, every First Friday is a Day of Prayer. The Rosary is recited at the top of each hour from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with silent prayer in between. No tours are given on those days.
The Grotto of the Sacred Heart and Little Flower is open every day from 8:00 am to Dusk.
Traveling to the Rhoda Wise House and Grotto:
Address: 2337 25th Street, N.E., Canton, Ohio
Tel: +1 (330) 453-0322
Photos courtesy Rhoda Wise House