I first heard about the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, WI in 2010, when I read about it on a Catholic news website, saying that it had become a Vatican approved Marian apparition site. I was totally amazed to hear that there was a Vatican approved Marion apparition site in the United States, and so close to where I was in Minnesota. I was then amazed that I had never heard of it before! How could I have lived so close to it, (only about six hours by car) and I had never heard of this shrine, or the history behind it.
Being young and single at the time, I immediately dropped everything, gathered a few friends and said “We have to go there!” I will probably never make it to Lourdes or Fatima, but I could certainly make it to Wisconsin! So we set out on a road trip to see Our Lady. We still didn’t know anything about the Shrine or the history of it, but we had confidence that we would encounter Our Lady in a new and beautiful way.
Once we arrived at the Shrine, we began to learn about the apparition and the woman who was so blessed to be visited by Mary. Adele Brise was a young Belgian immigrant who lived in a very rural part of Wisconsin. In October, 1859, while walking on a path through the countryside, Our Lady appeared to Adele. She appeared three times to the young woman, and according to the official Decree on the Authenticity of the Apparitions of 1859 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Our Lady told Adele,
“I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners… Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation… 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.”
Adele did not stop to question or second guess this command, but she started out right away to fulfill the request of Our Lady. Adele began work to open a school in the area, and in 1868 St. Mary’s Boarding Academy was opened and serving sixty pupils. Through the years the school has served many different purposes, but Our Lady’s command of teaching the way to salvation has always been at it’s heart. As a Well-Read Mom, what a beautiful message from Our Lady to consider. Don’t we all, in some way or another, have it as our mission to educate? We are all called as mothers to educate ourselves, our children, and our spiritual families.
About twelve years after the apparitions, a raging wildfire came through the area around the Shrine. The farmers and their families fled to the Shrine for protection from the fire. They carried the statue of Our Lady around the perimeter of the Shrine, walking toward whichever direction the wind was blowing the fire. Miraculously, though all the surrounding farmland and prairie was burned in the great fire, the area around the Shrine where the farmers processes was kept completely safe from the fire. To honor this miracle each year there is a procession and celebration on the feast of the Assumption. Hundreds of pilgrims come to honor that day, and seek the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help.
This year, Well-Read Mom is pleased to celebrate the end of the ‘Year of the Pilgrim’ by offering a pilgrimage to the Shrine for this Assumption celebration. A three day walking pilgrimage, with talks, meditation, and fellowship with other Well-Read Moms is a wonderful way to truly experience the ‘Year of the Pilgrim’ and dive deeper into learning the way of Salvation. If you are interested in attending, find out more about it at the Well-Read Mom website.
That first experience I had at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good help was simple but beautiful. I didn’t see any major miracles, and the Shrine itself is quite unassuming. However, the peacefulness of the place permeated my soul, and I knew that wouldn’t be the last trip I made to the Shrine. The next year I attended the Assumption celebration and was again strengthened on my spiritual journey. I will continue to meet Our Lady of Good help there, whenever I have something on my heart I need to share with her, and I encourage you all to meet her there as well.
Mary Teck is part of the Well-Read Mom team, and lives happily in Ironton, MN with her husband and three children.