Our Lady of Good Help
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, also dedicated
as the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, is a Marian shrine, located within the
Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. The chapel is in the community of
Champion, Wisconsin, about 16 miles (26 km) north east of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
It stands on the site of the reported Marian apparition to a Belgian-born woman,
Adele Brise, in the year 1859.
The apparition was formally approved on December 8, 2010, by Bishop David Ricken,
becoming the first Marian apparition approved by the Catholic Church in the
United States. Bishop Ricken also approved the Chapel as a Diocesan Shrine,
recognizing its long history as a place of pilgrimage and prayer.
Apparitions of 1859
Adele Brise was born in Belgium in 1831. Together with her parents, she
immigrated to Wisconsin in 1855. In early October 1859, Adele reported seeing a
woman clothed in white and standing between two trees, a hemlock and a maple.
Adele described the woman as surrounded by a bright light, clothed in dazzling
white with a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars above her flowing
blond locks. She was frightened by the vision and prayed until it disappeared.
When she told her parents what she had seen, they suggested that a poor soul
might be in need of prayers.
The following Sunday, which was October 9, 1859, she saw the apparition a second
time while walking to Mass in the community of Bay Settlement. Her sister and
another woman were with her at the time but neither of them saw anything. She
asked the parish priest for advice, and he told her that if she saw the
apparition again, she should ask it, "In the Name of God, who are you and what
do you wish of me?"
Returning from Mass that same day, she saw the apparition a third time, and this
time asked the question she was given. The lady replied, "I am the Queen of
Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the
same." Adele Brise was also given a mission to "gather the children in this
wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation."
At the time of the apparition Adele was 28 years old, and she devoted the rest
of her life to teaching children. At first she traveled by foot from house to
house, and later she began a small school. Some other women joined her in this
work and they formed a community of sisters according to the rule of the Third
Order Franciscans, although Adele Brise never took public vows as a nun. She
died on July 5, 1896.\
The original chapel was a small wooden structure built by Lambert Brise, the
father of Adele Brise, at the site of the Marian apparition. Mrs. Isabella Doyen
donated the 5 acres (20,000 m2) surrounding the spot, and a larger wooden church
was built in 1861. This chapel bore the inscription "Notre Dame de bon Secours,
priez pour nous", giving the shrine its present name. The site became a
popular place of pilgrimage and the chapel was soon too small to accommodate the
pilgrims who were coming. A larger brick chapel was built in 1880, and dedicated
by Bishop Francis Xavier Krautbauer, the second bishop of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Green Bay. A school and a convent were also built on the site in the
Lumber companies and sawmills had been harvesting the woods of Wisconsin,
leaving piles of sawdust and branches as they produced lumber and wood products.
The night of October 8, 1871, a firestorm began near Peshtigo, Wisconsin that
spread through the woods and towns, consuming everything in its path. Unable
to outrun the flames, nearly 2,000 people died in the inferno. Driven by strong
winds, the conflagration leaped across the Green Bay of Lake Michigan and began
burning huge sections of the Door Peninsula. When the firestorm threatened the
Chapel, Adele Brise refused to leave and instead organized a procession to beg
the Virgin Mary for her protection. The surrounding land was destroyed by the
fire but the chapel and its grounds, together with all the people who had taken
refuge there, survived the fire unharmed. The conflagration destroyed about
1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2) of land and is the worst recorded fire disaster in
The current building at the shrine was built in 1942, with support from Bishop
Paul Peter Rhode, who dedicated the new building in July 1942. It is a Tudor
Gothic style building which accommodates approximately 300 people in an upper
Apparition Chapel with a small Apparition Oratory for prayer on the lower level.
The Apparition Oratory also contains a collection of crutches left behind in
thanksgiving by people who came to pray at the shrine. The grounds of the shrine have an outdoor area for a Rosary
walk and Stations of the Cross.
The largest annual gathering at the Chapel happens on the feast of the
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on August 15, celebrated with an outdoor
Mass and a procession around the grounds of the shrine.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help gained national recognition when the
apparitions were approved, after a two-year investigation, by Bishop David
Ricken on December 8, 2010, making it the first and only apparition approved by
the Catholic Church in the United States. Bishop Ricken noted that his
predecessors had implicitly endorsed the shrine by holding services there over
On August 15, 2016, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the
shrine as a National Shrine. In recognition of this, the shrine's name was
changed to The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.
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