Marian Apparitions (48) — Wisconsin, America

Adele Brise was born in Belgium in 1831. She and her farm family moved to the Bay Settlement area near Green Bay, Wisconsin sometime in the early 1850’s. The US Bishops had already declared Mary to be the patroness of the US in 1846. In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which states that Mary was conceived without original sin. Just four years later, in 1858, at Lourdes, France, Mary appeared to St. Bernadette and declared that she was The Immaculate Conception. A year later, in 1859, the twenty eight year old Adele was surprised to see Mary appear to her in the wooded area of her farm in Wisconsin. As usual, her appearance had a very definitive purpose. Mary asked her to pray for poor sinners, to teach the young children how to make the sign of the cross, and to teach them about the catechism and the sacraments. Her exact statement is as follows:

“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… 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; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.”

Adele dedicated her life to doing just that. She traveled all over the area teaching and instructing young children in the catechism, many times at great cost to her health. Her income consisted of alms from the community. She even formed a Third Order Community (laity) of Franciscan Women to further Mary’s request. Adele’s father Lambert built the first chapel on the site in 1859. In 1861, the year that the Civil War began, pilgrimages to the Shrine began. In 1869, St. Mary’s Boarding Academy opened at the Shrine.

Adele and her community worked tirelessly for the rest of their lives to fulfill Mary’s request. On July 5, 1896, Adele died. Her last words were

“I rejoiced in what was said to me. We shall go into the house of the Lord.”

One important milestone in the history of the Shrine is the great Peshtigo fire of 1871. It is the worst recorded fire ever in the United States, burning approximately 1.5 million acres. A huge storm system set the Wisconsin woods on fire near the Shrine on October 8, the same day as the great Chicago fire. Adele and her Franciscan sisters took shelter in the chapel. Other residents near the Shrine did the same, and they moved their livestock onto the grounds of the chapel. Adele and her sisters took the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and marched around the chapel praying. As the wind-whipped, fire and smoke approached the Shrine perimeter, a rainstorm began and put out the fire, saving the chapel and the property. The only livestock to survive the fire were those that were brought onto the chapel grounds. The perimeter fence was charred but survived. It’s almost as if the devil wanted to destroy this holy ground. But thanks to the faithfulness of Adele and her community, his plan was foiled. Estimates are that around 2,000 people lost their lives in the fire.

Bishop Ricken confirmed the veracity of Marian apparitions. The fact that the Peshtigo fire stopped at the fence of the chapel property after burning so much land could be considered miraculous, for sure. But there are also people who have visited the Shrine who have been cured of severe illnesses. Many people have left their crutches at the Shrine as proof that they could walk again. Others have been cured of deafness, blindness, heart disease, and tuberculosis. Due to all of the pilgrims who started coming to visit the Shrine, a new and larger chapel was built in 1942.


Compiled from by Tej Francis

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