The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help
My family has been traveling to Marian Shrines for years. Last fall, when my husband had a work trip to Green Bay the kids and I tagged along and ventured to The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. This small town is approximately 16 miles Northwest of Green Bay. The short drive through cornfields is the epitome of wholesome Midwest living. The strong Catholic influence is obvious. If you look closely, you will see many houses displaying gray stone or blue and white painted Our Lady statues in the front yard.
Update: Wisconsin-based Author Marge Steinhage Fenelon recently wrote a book called America’a Mary, The Story of Our Lady of Good Help (Oct. 2022). I highly recommend you read this for the full story.
The story that put Champion on the map began with Belgium born Adele Brise who immigrated to Wisconsin with her family in 1855. Four years later on October 9, 1859, when Adele was 28, she saw a beautiful lady in white with a yellow sash around her waist standing in a bright, brilliant light with a crown of stars above her head. She said nothing and disappeared. Not long after she appeared again, but again remained silent before vanishing.
After confiding in the parish priest, he told Adele that if she sees the lady again ask her: “In the Name of God, who are you and what do you wish of me?”
On the third visit she did ask the question and the lady replied, “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same.” She also said, “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”
Adele was uneducated and questioned what she should teach the children. The Blessed Mother 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.”
In response to Our Lady’s request, Adele did exactly that. Over the years, she covered the land in a 50 mile radius by foot, teaching the children.
A Massive Fire and a Miracle
Adele’s Father built a small chapel and later a convent and school were built. Today there is also a museum and welcome center. Many miracles are attributed to the pilgrimages to the chapel. The most fascinating and intriguing miracle evolved on the grounds during the Peshtigo fire. This fire spread through Green Bay on October 8, 1871 (it started the same day at the great Chicago Fire). Moving swiftly across the land, the fire claimed over 800 victims and all structures in its path.
The chapel was the meeting point for many local residents and their animals who processed around the chapel and grounds, praying the rosary and carrying a statue of Our Lady. As the fire moved in closer to the religious grounds a rain cloud suddenly approached and extinguished the fire. The five acres holding the convent, school, and chapel, which had been consecrated by the Virgin Mary, survived the fire. The surrounding land, as far as the eye could see, turned to ash. This is the deadliest fire in the United States history, yet the people and the livestock on the property survived.
The image to the left is the 4th and current chapel. If you look closely you can see the monstrance on the alter.
When you go, to The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help visit the museum, which tells Adele’s story and even has documentation and proof of healing miracles such as retired crutches. Since our visit was during the winter, we plan to return this summer to explore the grounds more in depth. Stay tune for more on The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.