Most National Shrines in the United States can be found in densely populated cities, and receive visits from hundreds of people every day. The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, a very quaint yet beautiful little Shrine, is literally in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields, and receives only a handful of visitors at a time. Yet, it was in this little out-of-the-way place that the Virgin Mary appeared to a young immigrant woman with a very important message.
The apparition of the Virgin Mary to Adele Brise
A young Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise testified that Mary appeared to her on October 9, 1859, in the town of Robinsville, which is modern-day Champion. Adele immigrated from Belgium in the 1850s with her family when she was 24 years old. She helped her family by taking grain to a local grist mill along a wooded trail in northeastern Wisconsin where her family settled. It was while on this trail that Mary appeared to her.
In this apparition, Mary identified Herself as “The Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners.” Mary told Adele to have people go to confession and receive Holy Communion, especially for the conversion of sinners. She also asked that the children of this country (the United States) be properly catechized, that they know how to make the Sign of the Cross, and to teach them how to properly approach the sacraments of the Church. Mary’s title “Our Lady of Good Help” comes from Her concluding words to Adele: “Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”
Adele then founded a lay order of women called the Sisters of Good Health. She and her sisters never took vows but practiced a way of life similar to that of the Franciscan order. She went around the region of Champion praying for others and inspiring others to pray for the conversion of sinners. She also began teaching catechism to children throughout the Champion area as well. Adele and her sisters are buried on the grounds of the Champion Shrine. No formal cause for the canonization of Adele Brise has begun. Pilgrims and the faithful are, however, encouraged to pray for her intercession and pray that one day a cause may be formally opened.
Visiting the Shrine
The Shrine was originally a small chapel built in 1861. This small, seemingly insignificant chapel would play a large role ten years later in 1871. In 1871, the great Peshtigo Fire swept across the United States. It destroyed thousands of acres of property and claimed many lives. Adele, her sisters, and a small group of locals fled to the chapel. They placed a statue of Mary on a carrier and formed a procession outside, praying the Rosary as they walked. After many hours of praying, a deluge of rain came, putting out the terrible fire. This occurred on the 12th anniversary of Mary’s third appearance to Adele on October 9, 1871. Thus, many attribute the salvation of everyone in the small chapel to Our Lady of Good Help.
In December of 2010, Bishop David L. Ricken, the bishop of Green Bay, after reviewing the findings of three different Mariologists, concluded that Mary did indeed appear to Adele Brise and brought the matter to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who formally declared it a National Shrine in August of 2016. There are many famous sites of Marian apparitions, such as Fatima, Lourdes, and Guadalupe. Champion, however, stands alone as the only Marian apparition site in the United States officially approved by the Catholic Church.
Beneath the Shrine’s chapel used for daily Mass and the hearing of confessions, is a small dimly lit room known as the apparition oratory where there is a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Good Help appearing to Adele Brise. Here one can see the numerous crutches and canes left behind by the many who have been miraculously healed by making a pilgrimage to the Shrine. Contained within the apparition oratory is a collection of relics ranging from the Apostles to modern-day saints as well.
In accord with Mary’s wishes, Eucharistic processions, retreats, daily Mass, daily confessions, and numerous other religious events are offered constantly for the spiritual enrichment and benefit of pilgrims wishing to honor Mary through this particular apparition. If one wishes to plan a pilgrimage to the National Shrine, they may contact the pilgrimage coordinator at the Shrine’s website here. In the event of large groups of pilgrims, halls can be rented for various occasions. More information regarding nearby lodging and food can be found at the Shrine’s website.
There are no guided tours of the chapel or grounds of the Shrine, however, brochures are available for self-guided tours. Numerous grottos depicting the various apparitions of Mary have been set up around the grounds of the Shrine as well. The Welcome Center offers an informative video that constantly plays throughout the day regarding the history and message of Our Lady of Good Help and the Shrine. The Shrine encourages people to prayerfully explore the chapel and grounds hoping to grow closer to Jesus through this particular apparition of Our Lady of Good Help.