After a few summers of having young babies and business expansions, this one has been refreshingly open. Last weekend we were even able to take an impromptu weekend getaway, and we took the opportunity to cross a place off our bucket list which is right in our own backyard: The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin.
The Shrine is the site of the only approved Marian apparition in the United States. Approved in December 2010, the Catholic Church declared the apparition “worthy of belief,” although not obligatory.
The apparition is said to have happened in 1859 to a young Belgian girl named Adele Brise. Back in Belgium, Adele had planned to commit her life to Christ by joining a convent, but this was no longer possible when her family moved to the American frontier. Adele reported seeing the Virgin Mary on three different occasions and receiving simple messages to gather the children of the countryside and teach them what they needed to know for salvation. Adele followed this guidance by teaching from house to house, and later she went on to set up a Catholic school and a community of Third Order Franciscan women.
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, as the evidence to “prove” the apparition is scant. Many visitors have reported miraculous spiritual and physical healings, although to my knowledge none of them have been formally investigated. Perhaps the most convincing supernatural evidence is that the five acres consecrated to the Virgin Mary were left unscathed during the 1871 Great Peshtigo Fire which devastated much of northeastern Wisconsin.
Regardless of whether or not you believe the Virgin Mary truly appeared, the message to teach our children the faith rings true today. Our children enjoyed walking the grounds which included a small museum, outdoor rosary and stations of the cross walks, statues of other Marian apparitions, gift shop, café and church. The setting of the shrine is very peaceful in a rural area of Wisconsin surrounded by farm fields. Being midsummer, many perennials also adorned the grounds with vibrant blooms.
At first, involving three young children seemed to hinder the contemplative purpose of a pilgrimage, but then there was a moment when their presence truly enhanced the experience: As we awaited the start of mass, they watched the orange fish swimming around the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. As their three figures lined up with those of Francisco, Jacinta and Lucita, it struck me how consistently Mary seems to involve children in her guidance. May we always remember the significance of our roles as parents!
Champion is situated between Green Bay and Door County. Green Bay offers many amenities and diversions including Lambeau Field, the N.E.W. Zoo, Bay Beach Amusement Park, and more. Door County is a top tourist area of Wisconsin with highlights being the views of the bay and Lake Michigan, several state parks, and many restaurants and shops.
I’m grateful that Wisconsin has moved on from being a wild frontier to being an area with many attractions to enhance the faith of our children. Are there holy places in your backyard? How has your family benefited from such places?
Copyright 2017 Kayla Knaack