Joseph Reinholtz of Hillside, Illinois, a retired railroad employee and widower, suffered from blurred vision and bouts of blindness since September, 1980. In 1987 he made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzogovina, alleged site of apparitions of the Blessed Mother to six young people. Vicka, one of the visionaries, prayed over Joseph. Today they are close friends. After returning home, Joseph's sight gradually returned. The first thing he saw clearly was a small statue of the Blessed Mother that he had purchased years before for less than a dollar. The statue was weeping tears. Joseph returned to Medjugorje in April, 1989. Vicka instructed him to look for a large crucifix next to a three- branched tree (later nicknamed the "trinity tree"). Once he found the crucifix, he was to pray at that spot. Returning home, Joseph located the crucifix and tree in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, a Chicago suburb. He prayed at this spot daily for nearly two years.
On August 15, 1990, the Blessed Mother appeared to Joseph for the first time. She came again to him at the Cross (as the crucifix is called) on November 1, 1990, accompanied by St. Michael the Archangel and three other angels. For some time now, Our Lady visits the Cross daily, except Tuesdays, no matter what the weather. (The Archdiocese of Chicago placed a restriction of obedience to the Church on Joseph, requesting that he not go to Queen of Heaven Cemetery on Tuesdays. Joseph complied.) There are times, especially on special feast days, when Our Lord accompanies His Mother. St. Michael is always with her and several times St. Joseph has come as well.
Pilgrims often capture special photographs at this site: glimpses of Our Lady, angels, light phenomena that is difficult to explain. The corpus on the Cross has been photographed bleeding. Rosaries have turned "gold," the scent of roses is often detected, and many conversions take place. Other alleged visionaries, such as Vicka and Ivan of Medjugorje, have visited the site. In fact, Vicka gave Joseph a crucifix, blessed by Father Jozo, for Joseph to bless pilgrims.
During Joseph's daily visits to the Cross, the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary are prayed. Intentions include: the terminally ill, Our Lady's intentions, personal intentions, peace in the world, the Holy Father and all priests, bishops, and cardinals, unity in all churches and families. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed as well as special prayers for peace and for the poor souls. Our Lady always requests five Our Fathers and five Glory Bes for the poor souls in Purgatory. She always reminds Joseph that when these prayers are presented to the Father, she and St. Michael will go to Purgatory to release souls to Heaven. Our Lady gives Joseph a message for the world on the twenty fifth of every month. These messages, and other information, are shared daily with the pilgrims who come to the Cross. Our Lady frequently stresses the importance of the Fatima message: attend Mass, go to confession & communion and meditate at least fifteen minutes on the Mysteries of the Rosary on five consecutive first Saturdays of the month. Our Lady promises to be with those who do, at death. On August 15, 1993 Blessed Mother appeared to Joseph, in his home, at 3 AM. She took him to Purgatory, which he describes as an " . . . endless area. . . a grey area, dark like ashes, a somewhat very misty area." The souls are hidden from sight but he could feel their response as a " . . . begging and twitching for help." Purgatory, he explained, was in three levels, according to the severity of the punishment. It is a place of expiation, a place of great suffering, according to God's justice. Our Lady explained to him that our prayers can do much to relieve the suffering souls.
On March 11, 1994, the Diocese of Chicago allowed Joseph to participate in a Healing Mass, and to speak in public about his experiences for the first time, at Our Lady of the Ridge Church. Letters from Archdiocese of Chicago: July 26, 1991 and April 3, 1995
Joseph is a very humble, quiet, grandfatherly man. His eyes twinkle, but they can look deeply into one's soul. I visited the Cross one Sunday morning. I stood in line with my son, who was seventeen at the time, awaiting Joseph's personal blessing with blessed oil from Medjugorje that contains tears from his weeping statue. Joseph blessed Nick and sent him over to touch the feet of the corpus on the Cross. He then turned to me, looked at me for a moment, as if he were listening to someone, and then shook his finger at me and said, "You could do much better." And he was right. I had neglected my daily Rosary for some time, saying that I was awfully busy and offered my day to the Lord each day anyway. I corrected that particular deficiency. Another time, Joseph stopped praying midway through the Rosary, laughing. He described what he was seeing: a small angel was playing with a toddler in a stroller. The child could be seen by the crowd, smiling and reaching for "something." Blessed Mother took a moment to call the little angel to her side, gently reprimanding it and requesting that it "stop playing with the children" so that they could continue praying. She truly is a Mother.
"Then Joseph said, 'Oh, but in late October, when Pat [person who helps Joseph with his ministry--his second in command] and I went to Michigan, Blessed Mary traveled with us, too. And she had us laughing. "Two angels were in the back seat of the car, and Blessed Mary sat between Pat driving, and me. She said she wanted to see what it was like to ride in a car. I told Pat what Our Lady said and we laughed so hard. Then Our Lady said, 'Joseph, I want Pat to open the doors to let us out.' I was still wiping the tears from laughing at her other sentence, and so I told Pat what Our Blessed Mother said about her opening the car doors in Detroit, for her and the two angels. We laughed again. "Coming back, we rode with different angels and Blessed Mary in the car. At one point I looked [away], and Blessed Mary left. The two angels [were] with heads resting in hands against the windows. I looked across the seat, but she had left the angels alone with us. Then coming towards the car, in the sky, was Our Lady! Until she was on the hood. I said to Pat, 'Stop!' Because I see her so real, as a person, I was afraid she would be hit by traffic. And I began to scold her, and said, 'Don't frighten me like that. I love you too much.' Then Our Lady touched our rosaries and left us.'" Joseph suffered a stroke on February 10, 1995. To date (2-28- 95), he remains hospitalized. He is paralyzed on the left side and his speech is poor. However, he is alert; his mental faculties are intact. Our Lady continues to come to Joseph daily in the hospital, consoling him and giving him messages, as usual. Pilgrims still gather at the Cross in Queen of Heaven Cemetery at 9 AM daily (10 AM Sundays) to pray the Rosary and other devotions. The importance of attending Mass and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation before or after visiting the Cross, at one of the local Catholic Churches, is stressed. Blessed Mother's purpose for coming to her children is to lead them to her Son.
Queen of Heaven Cemetery is at the corner of Roosevelt and Wolf Roads in Hillside, Illinois. Coming from Indiana, take 294 North toward Wisconsin and get off at the first Roosevelt Road Exit, and stay in the right hand lane until you come to Wolf Road. Turn right at the light and right again, into the Cemetery. Once in the cemetery, take the first left hand turn, turn left a second time, and the Cross comes into view. Rest room facilities can be found in the Mausoleum on the right, as you enter the cemetery. The cemetery administrators have been very gracious in allowing pilgrims to visit the Cross. Pilgrims are asked to maintain decorum, refraining from visiting with one another at the site of the Cross (casual chatting should be reserved for the parking area), loud voices, and wandering over the grave sites.