“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.” Our Lady of Good Help gave this mission to Adele Brise on October 9, 1859. Adele, born in Belgium, had immigrated to Wisconsin with her family, settling in the area near Green Bay. At the time, many immigrants from Belgium, Germany and Holland had come to the area, and their children needed to be catechized.
Our Lady of Good Help and Her Message to Adele Brise
Our Lady of Good Help chose Adele to be the catalyst for this important effort. Yet, Adele was not a highly placed, nor a highly educated, young woman. In fact, she asked Our Lady, “But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?” To which, Our Lady replied, “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.” And that she did—Adele devoted her life to teaching and spreading the Good News.
Intercession of Our Lady of Good Help in the Peshtigo Fire
Twelve years later, the Peshtigo wildfire, named after the largest community it destroyed, occurred on October 8th and 9th of 1871. The deadliest fire in U.S. history, it raged across approximately 1,200,000 acres (1,875 square miles) destroying everything in its path. An accurate count of mortalities due to the fire wasn’t possible due to the destruction of local records in the fire. However, officials estimated the death toll at about 1,500 to 2,500 people. During the fire, Sister Adele and her sisters, the school children and local farmers all gathered at the Shrine’s chapel. Processing their statue of Our Lady around the sanctuary, they prayed for divine intervention. Our Lady responded with her good help. In the end, the fire only charred the fence surrounding the property, with the chapel and all remaining in it unharmed.
God Heals Through Our Lady of Good Help
Over the years, miraculous healings have occurred at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The Shrine lists some of them on its website. We know the family involved in one such healing. An infant with severe health problems requiring the assistance of a feeding tube was cured after prayers at the Shrine. My wife and I learned about this when we met the baby girl’s grandmother while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Although the Shrine doesn’t authenticate reported healings, many crutches left behind, and testimonials of the faithful, bear witness to the fact that they are occurring.
The Only U.S. Approved Marian Apparition Site
The Shrine is the only Marian shrine in the U.S. on the site of an approved apparition of Our Lady. After investigation of the apparitions, Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay made a formal declaration approving the apparitions in 2010. Since 2011 priests from the Fathers of Mercy have staffed the Shrine.
Located at Champion, Wisconsin, it’s about a thirty-minute drive from Green Bay. Pilgrims to the Shrine can pray in the oratory, replete with devotional candles, together with a statue of Our Lady situated at the spot where Mary appeared to Adele. They can avail themselves of prayer, individually or in a group recitation of the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as Confession and Mass in the chapel located above the oratory. There also are beautifully manicured grounds outside the chapel available for prayer.
An Abundance of Graces
The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is truly sacred space—set aside for God, and for God’s people, to allow Mary to bring them closer to Jesus. I can tell you from personal experience that there is a palpable sense of Our Blessed Mother’s presence there. It’s a wonderful spot to spend a day in a mini-retreat, being open to unmerited graces for recharging one’s spiritual battery. Not only that, but the faithful are eligible for indulgences from a pilgrimage to this wonderful, grace-filled place. It’s easily accessible by car, or if you fly in as we did, to Green Bay, by air with a brief trip in a rental car from your hotel to the Shrine. Being the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States, it’s well worth your time to check it out.
National Shrine of St. Joseph Is Nearby
As a bonus, after visiting Our Lady of Good Help, if you travel back toward Green Bay, to De Pere, about thirty minutes away, you can visit the National Shrine of St. Joseph. This national shrine is located in the old St. Joseph Church on the St. Norbert College campus. The Norbertine community began a weekly novena to St. Joseph at this site in 1888. This devotion continues with novena prayers each Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Visitors will notice that St. Joseph wears a crown. A solemn crowning of his statue was conducted in 1892, with hundreds of devotees and clergy attending. St. Joseph’s Shrine also is a holy, special place for the faithful. Take advantage of your time in the Green Bay area to visit St. Joseph’s Shrine, and say an Our Father, Hail Mary and a prayer to St. Joseph while you’re there. You’ll be glad you did.
Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us
St. Joseph, most pure spouse of the Immaculate Mother of God and faithful guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray for us