A Marian shrine in rural northeast Wisconsin, the only shrine in the United States to be designated by the Catholic Church as an approved Marian apparition site, is changing its name.
During a press conference April 20, Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken announced the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help will now be known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion.
Bishop Ricken also announced that the national shrine will begin celebrating an annual Mass with the liturgical rank of solemnity every October 9. Bishop Ricken will celebrate the inaugural Mass of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Champion on that day at 11 a.m.
October 9 is the anniversary of Mary’s second and third apparitions to Adele Brise in 1859. Brise was a young Belgian immigrant living in Kewaunee County, and the apparitions occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay.
Bishop Ricken said the Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments approved the October 9 solemnity last December.
“Therefore, at the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Champion, the anniversary of her apparition will be celebrated as a high holy day of solemnity each year on October 9, thus nurturing the devotion to the Virgin Mary,” he said.
“On October 9, we will celebrate a special, beautiful Mass right here on the grounds, where we really thank the Blessed Mother for all she has done and all she is doing. From now on, that will be our central feast day celebration in honor of Our Lady of Champion,” Bishop Ricken said.
“There are so many beautiful things that have happened here over the years, and this new stage of calling her by the title of Our Lady of Champion will make it more concrete,” he added.
Bishop Ricken then unveiled a logo with the shrine’s new name.
Prior to Bishop Ricken’s declaration, Father John Girotti, vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, told reporters that the numbers of pilgrims to the shrine “have grown exponentially.”
“This year alone, we have experienced 150,000 people who have come here,” he said. “Already, this place is one of the most frequented locations in the state of Wisconsin, with people outside of our area coming to worship, to pray.”
“Today the shrine remains the first and only officially declared site of a Marian apparition in the United States,” added Father Girotti. “It remains what it always has been: a place of healing, a place of peace, a place of holiness, a place where we can take the challenges of life to God and ask God to bless us and help us.”
Bishop Ricken said the shrine’s name change and solemnity celebration are significant to Catholics around the country because it “might attract more pilgrims.”
“Why would we be interested in more pilgrims? Because this is a great message, and when people come here, they feel the sense of the Blessed Mother’s presence and she always leads us to Jesus,” he added. “Her whole mission in life was to lead people to Jesus and she constantly does that right here. We want to share that good news with people from throughout the country, so they know this is a refuge, it’s a wonderful place to come to find peace and to be able to pray with a lot of other Christians and people of even no faith.”
Bishop Ricken, who declared on December 8, 2010, that the Marian apparitions to Brise were worthy of belief, told OSV News he was humbled to be part of the shrine’s history.
“I realize the longer I’m here, the more blessed I am to be a part of this and to serve in the role of bishop and to help others to get to know about this place,” he said. “People just say it’s a huge place of consolation and peace for them, so to be able to do this with little things from my perch really is humbling.”
Sam Lucero writes for OSV News from Wisconsin.