The Miracles of Our Lady of Champion

Just northeast of the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, lies the site of a magnificent miracle. And today that site—the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion—is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States.

Yes, our Blessed Mother appeared to a young woman there in 1859. Adele Brise was a Belgian immigrant who moved to Champion, Wisconsin, with her family when she was young. As a child, she promised Mary that she would become a religious sister and dedicate herself to teaching children.

When she was 28 years old, Adele was walking through the woods and saw a woman dressed in white quietly standing there; they did not speak. A few days later, Adele was walking to Mass and again saw the lady. After Mass, she asked the advice of the priest, who told her she should invoke God’s name and ask the woman what she wanted.

On the way home from Mass, the woman stood waiting for Adele, who asked her, “In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?”

Our Lady responded, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners.”

Mary then said to her, “Gather the children in this wild country and 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.”

Adele understood the magnitude of Mary’s words and began teaching the children who lived in the area. At times, she would even tell parents that she would help with household chores if she could teach their children. Other women soon joined her. As people around the countryside saw the importance of her mission, they too began to assist, eventually building a school, a convent, and a chapel, all of which served the community.

In 2009, the Most Reverend David L. Ricken, bishop of Green Bay, opened an investigation into the apparition to determine if it was authentic. On December 8, 2010, Bishop Ricken declared that it was “worthy of belief.”

Today, pilgrims from all around the world travel to Our Lady of Champion, knowing that Our Lady helps bring them closer to her Son.

Fr. Joseph Aytona, CPM, has been the rector of Our Lady of Champion for nearly two years. He spoke to me about the beautiful story of Adele, about the site itself, about the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, and about the special events that occur on site.

One of those special events is coming up this weekend, on May 4. The Walk to Mary begins at the National Shrine of St. Joseph and ends with a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion. This 21-mile walk begins at 7am but allows for hop-in points along the way for people who cannot walk the entire 21 miles. There is also a short one-mile walk for children around the shrine’s grounds. Fr. Joseph explained that this walk is a beautiful “external act of sacrifice” that helps us grow closer to Jesus and become a witness to the faith. Further, it serves as a reminder that we should do some acts of penance every day.

He then explained that another meaningful time of year to visit the shrine is on the anniversary of the apparition in October. He described the significance of what he calls the “Champion Triduum.” On October 7, the shrine commemorates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto. Then on the night of October 8 and into the morning of October 9, they remember the deadliest fire in the US, which led to another miracle at the shrine.

On October 8, 1871, the Great Peshtigo Fire broke out, burning approximately 1.2 million acres—about the size of Rhode Island. Over 2,000 people died. Fearing for their lives, Adele and many others gathered to pray the rosary, asking for Our Lady’s intercession and for her to spare the church and keep them all safe. They prayed the rosary throughout the night.

Eventually rains stopped the fire, and when the group went out to inspect the damage, they found that the fire had stopped at the shrine’s fence line. Everything outside the fence was charred, but nothing inside the grounds of the shrine had been touched. Not even the wooden fence was harmed!

To commemorate this miracle, the shrine hosts an all-night Adoration on the night of October 8, with a rosary said on the top of every hour. Then on October 9, a special Mass is offered.  

These are just two of the many wonderful events that pilgrims can find on the grounds of the shrine. In addition, there are youth group events, confessions, Eucharistic healing services, the opportunity for people to enroll in the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary—“an international association of the Catholic faithful established ‘to praise and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to secure her patronage by the recitation of the Rosary for the mutual spiritual benefit of all the members throughout the world,’” and more.

Adele’s story is truly a remarkable one, and it serves as a tangible reminder of how much the Blessed Mother loves us and wants us to become closer to her Son. As Fr. Joseph said, Mary wants us all to be saints, and just as a mother on earth should strive to help her children attain heaven, our Blessed Mother does the same.

The twofold message of Our Lady of Champion—to offer Communion for the conversion of sinners and to teach children their catechism—is a crucial one, especially today. And it’s one we should take to heart and follow.

We are all sinners, and we all need the graces that can only come from our Lord and Savior. Offering up our Communion is a beautiful way to help others leave their lives of sin and grow closer to Him. Further, our children need faithful parents and grandparents now more than ever, as it’s our job to teach them about our faith and arm them with the moral courage to go out and become strong members of the Church.

Nearly 170 years ago, our Blessed Mother came to share her special message with the world. We have heard this message. Now it is our responsibility to, like Adele, heed her call and help catechize those around us. Let us willingly give God our “yes,” just as Mary did over 2,000 years ago.

This article first appeared in the Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com/2024/05/03/the-miracles-of-our-lady-of-champion.

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine and executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program.