Cause for Canonization Advances as National Eucharistic Pilgrimage Arrives at Wisconsin Marian Shrine

Adele Brise’s cause for canonization moved forward just before pilgrims arrived at the only Marian apparition site in the U.S.

Eucharistic Pilgrimage procession at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion
Eucharistic Pilgrimage procession at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion (photo: Emma Follett)

NEW FRANKEN, Wis. — The bells of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion rang out shortly before 2 p.m., on Sunday to welcome and announce the arrival of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion NEP
The faithful accompany Christ along a rural road.(Photo: Emma Follett)

Approximately 2,000 pilgrims participated in the shrine’s leg of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims, from babies in strollers to wheelchair-bound elderly, came together to walk with Our Lord and proclaim by their presence his true presence. Volunteers passed out holy cards with the newly painted image of Mary’s visits to Adele Brise. In 1859, Brise saw three apparitions of the Blessed Mother in the woods of Champion. The original image will be on display during the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis before coming to remain at the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, to be enjoyed and meditated on by the many pilgrims who visit each year. 

Adele Brise art
Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs created this work of art on canvas. A copy will be displayed at the National Eucharistic Congress in July for people to view and pray with. In connection to this, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion gave a smaller canvas reproduction to the Marian Route Perpetual Pilgrims of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, for them to visit Our Lady of Champion and then, in a very real way, take her with them for the rest of the journey to Indianapolis. As the artist explains, this painting highlights the Eucharistic element of Our Lady of Champion by uniting the three apparitions to Adele Brise into a single image.(Photo: Courtesy of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion)

Adele Brise, and the only church-approved Marian apparition site in the U.S., made Champion an ideal choice for many faithful who wished to participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Adele Brise grave
Gravestone for Adele Brise on the grounds of the shrine(Photo: Emma Follett)

Ten young women part of an ENDOW group fundraised for almost two years in order to make this trip happen. The group spent several days visiting parishes and praying especially for one of their group leaders who is suffering from breast cancer. They also carried with them the intentions of their parishes, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Henry, from the Phoenix area, to pray for them and to “give to our Holy Mother,” said Kandi Madden. 

Young women Champion shrine
Young women make a pilgrimage.(Photo: Courtesy of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion)

The women chose this shrine “because it was the only approved Marian apparition,” added high-school student Elliana Madden, Kandi’s daughter. “And Wisconsin has cows,” she added, laughing.

“We found out about the Eucharistic Pilgrimage after already choosing the shrine, and we got to walk 7 miles with them. We found all that out after planning to come, so everything lined up perfectly for us,” she continued. The group was excited to hear about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ decision to move Adele Brise’s cause for canonization forward while they journeyed. 

“We are really lucky to be here and have this experience and recenter God in our life and grow closer to each other,” said another student, Meaghan Keogh.

NEP Champion procession
Another view of the procession(Photo: Emma Follett)

Many other pilgrims also attended with specific intentions in their hearts — or for their hearts. 

“I’m pregnant with a baby that has a severe heart defect, and we were kind of researching what is the closest we could be to God in the United States without traveling too far,” said Krista from St. Paul, Minnesota. Due in September, she shared that her baby would have multiple open-heart surgeries, as well as a potential heart transplant down the road. “We knew about the Marian apparition here, and it just so happened that this procession was happening.” 

Her husband, Tony, continued, “We were drawn to this location and then we found out they were having this procession, so it was good timing from that standpoint.” The couple, accompanied with their other children, enjoyed participating in the pilgrimage. “It was a beautiful and wonderful day,” Krista said. “All we can do is pray, so that’s what we came here to do.” 

The McKinney family from Barneveld, Wisconsin, also expressed their gratitude in sharing this experience with their children. “We hadn’t made it up here yet, and it just happened that the pilgrimage was going to be here, and we thought it would be a great way to come and visit the shrine and also participate in the pilgrimage,” said Cameron, the father. “We just [thought] it would be a really good experience for the kids to see people come from all over to worship and give this time to Jesus. Everything came together to make this weekend workout really well.”

“Our kids have learned about Adele Brise and Our Lady of Champion,” said Beth, the mother, expressing gratitude for making the pilgrimage. 

National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion
The faithful pray at the shrine.(Photo: Courtesy of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion)

The McKinneys, originally from Indiana, are looking forward to attending the National Eucharistic Congress in July as well as visiting family in their native state. “We wanted to try and see one stop of the pilgrimage on the way to the congress, so that when the kids see the Eucharist coming in [at the National Eucharistic Congress] they'll remember that they saw it on that pilgrimage path, and this was just perfect.”

The McKinneys recalled an Indianapolis Colts game they attended at Lucas Oil Stadium with their children. “It’s just massive. There are all these people there for this football game — it’s sold out,” Beth said. The McKinneys want to show their children a similar crowd and setting with an entirely different draw — Jesus. 

“We just started talking about how it would be something [the kids] would remember forever, seeing that amount of people come together for Jesus. I just feel like, as they go out into the world, maybe they feel like a minority sometimes or they feel lonely, they’ll remember this time when there were so many people who loved the same thing they loved and worshipped Jesus like they do and hopefully that carries with them. That’s my hope for them,” said Beth. 

The O’Brien family also expressed their excitement to attend the event. 

“We've been following the cross-country Eucharistic procession, and since it’s coming as close to our place as possible today, we traveled to meet it. We are also very interested in Our Lady of Champion. It’s very significant that it's America’s only approved apparition, so I just wanted to bring my kids and for them to experience this.” 

The O’Briens’ 9-year-old daughter concurred, saying, “It’s nice to be part of the Eucharistic Revival, ’cause it’s a very big event in history!” 

The procession fell on Father’s Day, and for some pilgrims, that brought another depth to the day.

NEP Campion
The throng accompanies Jesus.(Photo: Emma Follett)


NEP Campion
Thousands strong(Photo: Emma Follett)

Local parents Alex and Megan Sekora brought their young son along with them and enjoyed getting to celebrate both fatherhood on earth and our eternal Father in heaven. 

“It’s an honor to spend Father’s Day here,” said Alex. For him, Father’s Day is also part of recognizing our own sonship and daughtership, while “putting God the Father first and remembering the reason why we are Catholic.” Alex sees his own role of father tied together to his faith. “Ultimately, our goal as Catholics is to go to heaven, so even just from a young age, from 3 months old, including him in the Catholic faith and involving him in Eucharistic processions and just bringing him to Mass, we just want to teach him from a young age the importance of the Catholic faith — and ultimately all our children.” 

The Green Bay family was excited to see so many people join the Eucharist procession and celebrate the True Presence with so many people. Alex added, “We come out here for events at the shrine quite a bit because we live so close, but being able to see so many people ... do the Eucharistic procession to publicly proclaim Jesus’ True Presence in the Holy Eucharist is an amazing feeling and an honor.” 


The Marian Route of the pilgrimage continues through the Diocese of Green Bay before entering the Milwaukee Archdiocese and into Illinois.