The Catholic Church in the United States had extra reason to celebrate on this particular Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception.
After a special morning Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, Wis., Bishop David Ricken concluded two years of investigation by officially approving the authenticity of the Marian apparitions that took place on this site in 1859.
As bishop of Green Bay, his official decree and proclamation makes Our Lady of Good Help the very first and the only site in the United States of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Citing in his decree the continuous streams of faithful who have come to the shrine for over 150 years to pray to Jesus through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help, the long tradition of answered prayers, the graces poured out through the sacraments, the character of the visionary, and the immediate and continuing effects and mandate of our Blessed Mother, Bishop Ricken decreed: “I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”
“I encourage the faithful to frequent this holy place as a place of solace and answered prayer,” he added.
It has been that almost immediately after the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared three times in two days — Oct. 8-9, 1859 — to Adele Brise, a young Belgian immigrant. Mary identified herself as the Queen of Heaven and gave the young farm girl a twofold mission: to pray for the conversion of sinners and to catechize children: “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 “was given the charge and mission to be an evangelist in this mission territory, then a heavily forested area,” Bishop Ricken told the Register. At the price of great personal sacrifice, she brought the Gospel and taught children to pray.
In a few short sentences the Blessed Mother gave Adele Brise “a mission that would take the rest of her life and a mission that would last here 150 years later,” Bishop Ricken said.
“Today the messages are just as pertinent as in the days of Adele Brise,” he explained, because today, more than then, there is “a need to hear the Gospel and the truth proclaimed and lived and also the need to be catechized, to be made more aware of the teachings of the Church and to be able to defend and explain them.”
Today’s young generations need to hear the Gospel proclaimed afresh and new and to hear the teachings of the Church in a clear way.
Earlier, at a press conference shortly after the announcement, Bishop Ricken made the same point when he said that the country is hungry for the Gospel and the good news. Calling our times an opportunity to do what Brise did as she went home-to-home to evangelize, he said that Catholics should be inspired to invite people to come to church and to catechize the younger generation.
(Read the entire story here.)
Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
CNS contributed to this story.