‘Go and Fear Nothing’ — The Story of Our Lady of Champion

Patrick O’Hearn has taken the story of Adele Brise’s Marian apparition and put it into a book for children.

Book cover of ‘Go and Fear Nothing’ by Patrick O’Hearn
Book cover of ‘Go and Fear Nothing’ by Patrick O’Hearn (photo: OSV)

My family and I live on a hobby farm. It’s not much. We have rabbits, chickens, bees, dogs, cats and a big garden, and we all have our farm chores. The older kids share a rotating schedule of chores, and there are times, like the winter, when it gets difficult. Distributing water to the animals in freezing temperatures is not a fun task. But at least they are not having to do the chores with only one eye.

When Adele Brise was a young girl, while making soap with her family, some lye burned her eye. She was blind in her right eye for the rest of her life, but she continued to do all the chores required in her family.

At the entrance to our property, there is a sign that says Ora et labora, which means “work and pray,” a traditional Benedictine motto. Adele, too, learned to pray along with her work, and her devotion as a child was strong. She and her family brought their hardworking attitude and their devotion with them when they moved from Belgium to America. Adele had a dream to become a religious sister, but she did not see how that could happen if they moved to a place where there were no religious communities and her family would need her help.

By the time she was 24, Adele and her family had moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and they bought more than 200 acres of farmland. Adele still did not understand the desire God had given to her to become a nun, but she continued to trust God, as Patrick O’Hearn describes in his book Go and Fear Nothing: The Story of Our Lady of Champion

One of the questions that sits heavy in the hearts and minds of young people is what they are going to do with their lives. O’Hearn’s book, and the story of Adele, contains an important lesson: continue to pray, be open, and fulfill your current responsibilities well. God will reveal his will to the faithful in time.

In 1859, Adele was doing her work faithfully, when a lady appeared to her. She was dressed in white and floating between two trees. Adele did not find out who she was at the time, but she told her parents about the lady. When the lady appeared again to Adele, she was with her sister and a neighbor, but they could not see her. Thankfully, her parish priest gave Adele some advice about what to ask the lady if she saw her again.

When she next appeared, the lady told Adele to gather the children in that country and teach them the faith. Believing the lady to be Our Lady, she traveled around the countryside to teach the children. Adele remembered that Our Lady told her: “Go and fear nothing. I will help you.”

Adele’s father built a chapel for Our Lady in the spot where she first appeared to Adele, and Adele started the community of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. Her dream to become a religious sister was made possible through Our Lady’s instructions. Adele and her community started a school, St. Mary’s Academy.

In 1871 a forest fire broke out nearby. People fled to the chapel for protection, some of them even bringing their farm animals. While hundreds of surrounding acres were burned, the six acres that had been dedicated to Our Lady were untouched.

In 2010, Bishop Ricken of Green Bay declared the events worthy of belief, and there is a national shrine where Our Lady first appeared to Adele. 

Patrick O’Hearn has taken the story and put it into a book for children, so that they can learn about this apparition that happened in the United States. Adele’s example is a beautiful one for young people today who wrestle with anxiety and discontent. The book is beautifully illustrated by Ann Kissane Engelhart.

I do not know if Our Lady will appear to my children as they do their farm chores, but I hope she does. O’Hearn’s book and Adele’s story can help them to hope for that as well, and at the very least will show them a good example of a young girl who worked and prayed.