Our Lady of Good Help

A reenactment of Our Lady's apparition to Adele Brise in 1859

About three months ago a groundbreaking development with significant nationwide implications occurred in Wisconsin.

No, I’m not talking about the showdown between Gov. Scott Walker and public employee unions, nor even about the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl.

I am referring to the Dec. 8, 2010, declaration by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay that an apparition of the Virgin Mary to Belgian immigrant Adele Brise in 1859 was “worthy of belief” and of veneration by the faithful.

The declaration makes the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., the first — and to date only — site in the United States of an approved Marian apparition. The site is only the second in North America (besides Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City) to be so designated. More background on the apparitions and on the visionary herself can be found here at the shrine’s website.

As fellow TAC blogger Dave Hartline has noted, approved Marian apparitions tend to coincide to some extent with events that can be described as trials or upheavals in the immediate region, or on a national or worldwide scale. Notable examples include Fatima, which occurred just as the Communist Russian Revolution took place in 1917; the apparitions at Kibeho, Rwanda in 1981, which foretold the Rwandan genocide; and Our Lady of Zeitoun (Egypt) in 1968, occurring shortly after Egypt’s defeat in the Six Day War.

Did the pattern hold true in this case? It would appear so. First, the apparitions themselves occurred as the nation was sliding rapidly toward the Civil War. The apparition on Oct. 9, 1859, occurred only one week before abolitionist John Brown’s famous raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia — an event which convinced many Americans that civil war could no longer be avoided.

Second, and much closer to home, was the devastating forest fire that ravaged Peshtigo, Wis. and surrounding areas 12 years later — almost to the day — in 1871. The Peshtigo fire killed between 1,200 and 2,500 people — up to 10 times as many as the much more famous Great Chicago Fire which broke out the same night. The shrine which Adele and her family had built to Our Lady was in the path of the flames, but was spared after residents gathered there to pray.

With all that in mind, I can’t help but suspect an element of Divine Providence in the timing of the shrine’s approval. When Mary originally appeared, it was to a struggling frontier people, lacking proper formation in their faith, facing the upheavals of nature and of imminent civil war.

Now, just as another wrenching cultural battle breaks out in the Badger State itself, the Church grants Her blessing to this apparition, and makes her a patroness that can be claimed by all Americans. Perhaps her intercession could help us through the moral and social wilderness in which we find ourselves today?


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Elaine Krewer

Former journalist for Catholic and secular publications. Married with one child. Illinois resident. Interests include anything related to religion, history, politics, or weather. On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the farthest left/liberal you can go and 100 being the farthest right/conservative you can go, I'm probably in the 65-70 range.


  1. We Are Not Alone

    History and Scripture caught a short glimpse of her when she came to deliver the Redeemer to us. Now she is ready, even at the door of our hearts awaiting her son’s triumphant return to assist our Lord in the harvest of men. She has been quietly but effectively preparing the faithful by spiritual visions and appearances all over the world, mostly to the poor and holy souls or little children, imploring them to pray for peace and live lives worthy of the promises of Christ through repentance and sacrifice seeking to bring as many to her Divine Son as possible. Soon all the world will acknowledge her presence as God’s will unfolds before us. We must prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming and painful though merciful judgment upon the world by devout prayer, frequent confession, daily mass if possible, and many rosaries. Our Holy Mother has repeated this constantly in her many apparitions and messages over the years. We need to appreciate her place and participation in God’s eternal plan like the servants at the wedding feast.
    The gospels reveal Mary’s compassion and intersession at the marriage feast in Cana for the host and their guests on such a joyous celebration. She quite obviously knew her son’s capabilities at this time and also the love they jointly shared for all God’s people. Without hesitation she went to her son as the great intercessor that she is for mankind and stated simply “They have no wine,” giving Him, the one she knew to be the “son of the most high” an opportunity to reveal Himself and save the situation. Not yet ready to identify Himself in public but desiring to satisfy His mother’s wishes, He lovingly surrendered and asked “What would YOU have me do?” She, knowing her place in God’s redemptive plan as well as her motherly pride in her son, turned to the servants and told them to “Do what ever HE tells you.” This exchange and the efforts of the “servants”, marking His first miracle, was a foreshadowing of the situation today as we await Christ’s return for His “coming out” eternal wedding with His church. Likewise, through our priest and the Eucharist we, as transformed repentant sinners, can enjoy the “good wine” of salvation and eternal union with Him which began as the life giving water of our baptism.
    The stain of Satan’s deceitful plan on mankind in the garden by using “the woman” is about to have a full measure of justice returned upon its author and those who have joined him. We are about to witness the testimony of God when He told the deceiver “she will crush your head with her heel”.
    Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, asks that we close our eyes and ears to the lure of Satan’s call and learn from her, the mother of mercy and love of the Father for his children, and “do what ever” Christ has told us. No, we are definitely not alone nor on our own as we go out to gather in Christ’s sheep for Him. We need to realize the spiritual plurality we possess at all times. We have Christ the living truth of the gospels, the Holy Spirit as sent by our Lord, and also His blessed mother whose ultimate destiny was foretold by our loving Father. We must “Fear not for I am with you always, even until the end of this world”.

  2. That’s a very interesting insight, about Our Lady appearing at the time of great national upheavals. I might add that the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 came just as the Protestant movement in Europe began to gain ground, with many Catholics being converted to Protestant beliefs.
    The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe led to the conversion of millions of Mexicans, almost overnight. It was if Our Lady was opening the door to millions of more Catholics to make up for what was lost in Europe at the same time.
    For more information on the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, to go http://www.GoodHelpPilgrimage.com.

  3. Note to commenters: Please DO NOT promote any ongoing or unapproved apparitions, locutions, or visionaries in your comments. This is not meant as a personal judgment on any commenter or on any revelation. I merely want to stay on the topic of apparitions which HAVE received Church approval and not get off into a debate about the veracity of others. Thank you!

  4. Well, it depends on where the line is drawn between North and South America. If it is the border between Panama and Colombia, then, this is not only the 2nd approved site in North America. Just as an example, Costa Rica’s Patroness is Our Lady of the Angels, who appeared in 1635. In 1862, the Pope granted a plenary indulgence to those who visited the site.
    At any rate, it’s very exciting to have a site in the US!

  5. Melissa, thanks for the info regarding Costa Rica. By the common definition of “North America” that apparition would count as having taken place on our continent also.

  6. With pleasure, Elaine! I have been there several times as I have family in CR. There is a plaque in the Basilica from the original proclamation, but I can’t find it referenced on the internet and can’t remember exactly the year. I wouldn’t be surprised to find other apparition sites in Central America either.

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