Adele Brise pictured in a habit in an undated photo. In 1859, she saw apparitions of Mary near her home in Wisconsin state. CNS photo

CHAMPION, WISCONSIN – A bishop in the US state of Wisconsin has approved the Marian apparitions seen by a woman in 1859, making the events that occurred northeast of Green Bay the first in the US to receive the approval of a diocesan bishop.

Bishop David L Ricken of Green Bay made the announcement in Champion during Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on Dec 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He also issued a second decree, formally approving the shrine as a diocesan shrine.

Bishop Ricken said the proclamation was a desire of many people. “So many of you have asked for this in one way or another,” he said. “I regard this also as a simple declaration in that it already states what has been going on here so quietly for so many years.”

“In many ways it is also a thank-you gift to Adele Brise, that Belgian immigrant who came here to this country. ... We owe a great deal to her witness because she was simple, she was uneducated in our terms today. She was a humble soul, but she was obedient.”
Bishop Ricken added that Brise’s response to the apparitions – in her teaching of the faith to children – is the same message people are called to today.

Brise was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill a few kilometres from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

A few days later, on Oct 9, as Brise walked to Sunday Mass in Bay Settlement, several kilometres from her home, Mary appeared to her again. After Mass, Brise told the pastor what she had seen. He told her to “ask in God’s name who it was and what it desired of her”, according to a historical account found on the shrine’s website.

On the way home from Bay Settlement, Mary again appeared to Brise. When Brise asked who the woman was, Mary responded, “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same.”

She told Brise to “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.”

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children. She began a community of secular Franciscans and built a school next to the shrine. Brise’s father, Lambert, built a small chapel near the spot of the apparitions. When a brick chapel was built in 1880, the trees where Mary appeared were cut down and the chapel’s altar was placed over the spot.

A school and convent were also built next to the chapel. The current chapel was dedicated in 1942 under the title of Our Lady of Good Help. Today, the shrine, which sits on farmland, receives thousands of visitors each year.

Brise died July 5, 1896, and was buried in a small cemetery near the chapel. Although she was sometimes photographed in a habit, she never took vows as a religious. - CNS

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