Miracles, Prayer, Faith — A Marian Shrine’s Perfect Trio
As divine answers to prayers and cures followed, the shrine now has the nickname of ‘Wisconsin’s Lourdes.’
Louise’s 3-year-old grandson Sam was in a hospital in Wisconsin for 11 months getting chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. He had just turned 4 years old when, at the end of treatments, his doctors said the chemotherapy did nothing for him. They had only one more possibility to try for a remission or cure: a bone marrow transplant.
“That was the last line of possible help, and it was highly dangerous. They said he had only a 3% chance of living after this bone marrow transplant,” said Louise, his grandmother. (Because of privacy concerns, the family wishes their last name not be used.)
Through tears, Sam’s mother wondered, “What can we do?”
“Let’s take him to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Miracles happen there all the time,” Louise answered. The shrine in Champion, Wisconsin, was less than an hour’s ride away. She called the shrine administrator, who told her to “definitely bring him.” She remembers it was a cold night in November. “We drove him there at 9pm. We went right into the crypt and were standing in front of the statue of Mary, which is on the spot where the Blessed Mother appeared. We prayed the Rosary and lit candles. It was late, so we prayed only one decade.”
Little Sam prayed, too: “Dear Jesus, please make me get better.”
“This little boy had always been holy and knew what he was asking for and who could give it to him,” Louise recalled. Like his grandmother and mother, “He had faith.”
The next morning, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay, Sam received preliminary tests for the bone marrow aspiration the doctors were prepared to do. Louise told the Register, “On Friday the doctor came bursting into Sam’s hospital room and said that the tests showed absolutely no leukemic cells in his body whatsoever! He said, ‘I have no explanation!’”
Louise said her “heart was overflowing with joy, most of all to God our Father who hears and answers all prayers. And Sam’s mother proclaimed, ‘We have just received a miracle from God!’”
Today Sam is a healthy, husky, highly intelligent 15-year-old teen and football player.
Recalling the story of Sam’s healing, Father John Broussard of the Fathers of Mercy and rector of the shrine, said, “We have many cases of like that here.”
“Because we only just started forming a medical board where we have official investigation of physical miracles that take place, there is nothing official yet of people sending in [their stories] to us,” he explained. At this time, he said, “We refer to it as graces received from heaven. That could be physical, spiritual and anything in between. People come to the shrine and have an encounter with the Blessed Mother, and that we consider a grace. And that is presented to us in the many physical healings that take place here.”
He shared the time years ago a man born with a genetic disorder in his limbs and legs and unable to walk without braces or crutches came to pray at the shrine. “When he had finished his prayer, he left his crutches here, and he walked several miles on his own to get home.”
That man was one among many others. “We have our own little wall of crutches and canes people left over the years from the favors they received,” Father Broussard told the Register. “We know those mementos are many more than we have downstairs [in the oratory]. It’s a testament to the many miracles that have happened here.”
Prayer, faith and miracles are the trio responsible for so many different kinds of healings at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. It is the first, and thus far only, Marian apparition in the United States declared approved by the Church by Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay on Dec. 8, 2010, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The earliest answered prayers and miracles began shortly after our Blessed Mother appeared to young Adele Brise on Oct. 9, 1859, identifying herself as “The Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners.”
Once people heard of the apparitions and saw the work Adele did teaching the children the basics of the faith, devotion grew at the chapel on the site of the apparitions. Exactly 12 years later on Oct. 8-9, one of the worst fires in American history engulfed and destroyed hundreds of square miles around the shrine, including whole towns. But those in the shrine’s locality ran for refuge with their farm animals to the chapel. Together with Adele, men, women and children prayed for divine protection. They took the statue of the Blessed Mother in the chapel and, all night, on their knees, they processed around the shrine grounds praying the Rosary, asking Our Lady of Good Help to intercede with her Son Jesus to save them. And they also went into the chapel to pray before the Eucharist. The raging fires destroyed everything around the shrine, but the flames stopped at the white picket fence bordering the shrine grounds on which were the chapel and wooden schoolhouse. Then rain came and put the fire out. The peoples’ prayers were miraculously answered.
As divine answers to prayers and cures followed, the shrine got the nickname of “Wisconsin’s Lourdes.”
Similarly, many healings people experience are not only of the physical variety. “Of course, we have people who come here every day who experience the peace and refuge of this place,” Father Broussard said. “People find a lot of healing and hope here. We have many stories of people who have found the ability to forgive. That is one of the best miracles I perceive here.”
In other cases, he described people coming “with a heavy burden they are struggling with at the time, and they receive relief.” Sometimes the relief is partial, but that is “all they needed.”
Trusting in Our Lady’s Intercession
Christopher and Eileen (who want to keep their last name private) turned to Our Lady of Good Help for their daughter Lisa. This husband and wife living in Florida were acquainted with the shrine. Christopher knew about it as a youngster. His parents had a place about 50 miles away in Kangaroo Lake and would occasionally visit the shrine.
Their adult daughter Lisa was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. As Christopher explained to the Register, “One week before the beginning of Lisa's chemotherapy, she had a natera test, after tumors were removed from her liver. This test can measure the most miniscule amount of cancer in a person’s body, as little as one cell. Initially diagnosed with cancer of the colon, it had metastasized to the liver.”
In need, the parents contacted Our Lady of Good Help. The shrine sent them a novena prayer for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the healing for their daughter. Christopher and Eileen prayed it daily. Lisa, who was in Wisconsin, began chemotherapy on Aug. 11. Then, on Aug. 13, she received the natera test result “showing that she was cancer-free,” her father said. “I cannot emphasize this enough. The test was done before the beginning of her therapy.”
“So far,” he added, “she has had three tests, and all came back negative for the colon cancer. I call it a miracle.”
Christopher emphasizes the need for prayer and strong faith. “You have to believe that your prayer will be answered,” he counseled. “We were so motivated. It was an intense prayer. Our thoughts and emotions were wrapped up in that prayer. We were not just saying words, but we expected a cure. We had this blind faith, praying intensely. I didn’t have doubt.”
Christopher said their faith that their daughter “would be healed through our prayers is what saved Lisa. Both my wife and I attribute this miraculous event to the intervention of Our Lady.”
In January on EWTN’s The World Over, Cardinal Raymond Burke recounted his own healing experience that supports the miraculous answers from prayer. In August , suffering severely from COVID-19, he had been put on a ventilator. He recalled that, when he regained consciousness, “I had an immediate sense that our Blessed Mother had been taking care of me all the time, and I say this very sincerely. The doctors had informed my good sister Mary that there was really not any hope that I was going to survive this. I have no question in my mind that it was all these prayers that were raised up to Our Lord, and the prayers that he heard, and saved me.”
“But I had, immediately, that very strong sense, and it has remained with me — it really was miraculous. We should never doubt the power of prayer. But in this instance, I have experienced it in a remarkable way because I knew I was dying, and I really wasn’t at all certain that I would survive. When I then gained my consciousness again, I learned about all these prayers that were offered. I understood what had happened.”
Prayer With Faith and Confidence
People also come to Wisconsin’s Lourdes searching for God. “We hear those stories of people all the time,” Father Broussard said. “People unable to pray search for conscious contact with God, and they come here, feel it, receive it, and walk away with that experience God is with them. It strengthens their faith and confidence in God. We see that all the time.”
The results? Many spiritual healings also take place, as do emotional ones. “You have to have the faith,” emphasized Louise, who personally considers the shrine in the category with Fatima and Lourdes. She also received a healing there, for a back condition that was causing her continuous agonizing pain and serious immobility. Neither back specialist physicians nor pain specialists could help. She attended a Mass and healing service conducted by visiting Rwandan priest Father Ubald Rugirangoga. Louise recalled that when he prayed to the Lord, he said those in church with back problems are healed. “All of the sudden I straightened out my back, and there was no pain, and there has not been any pain since then. That was 13 years ago.”
After their experiences of healing, people often become staunch advocates of the shrine. According to Father Broussard, “Absolutely some of the biggest supporters of the shrine are those who have come and experienced and been touched in a powerful way. Our Lady touched them when they came. They go out and tell others about it and spread the word of the great gift we have of Mary’s shrine here.”
Their own faith grows as prayer continues in those healed.
Louise described how the family — Sam’s mother, father, two siblings and Sam himself — “pray the Rosary together every night with their night prayers. Each gets to say their prayer requests when they pray the Rosary, and they usually pray for the family and the country.”
Their example fits what Father Broussard said is the most important mission of the shrine. “Miracles are awesome and wonderful to see, but the most important thing is that people walk away with the deeper relationship with Jesus, God and Mary. They have that spiritual encounter that strengthens their faith, and they live a deeper prayer life when they leave this place. That’s the most important thing for us as we offer the sacramental life here and keep our doors open for people to come and have a place to pray.”
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