From the Pastor: About My Retreat
Last weekend, you might have noticed that I wasn’t around the parish. After completing his summer assignment, Fr. Vincent Capuano came by the sacristy on Saturday morning and told me that he would be ready, willing, and able to take over the Masses for the next week or so if I would like to get away. I jumped at the chance and started planning a retreat. The following day I celebrated the 7:30 am Mass and took off driving toward Wisconsin, to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Though I will explain more about my trip and other stops in the future, for now I will just give you the background of this amazing Shrine, taken from the Shrine’s facebook page. There is, of course, much more to the story than is presented in this short summary.
About The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, Wisconsin, USA
Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe and Champion all are part of a select group of places worldwide where the Blessed Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared. In America, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion covers the peace-filled holy ground deemed ‘worthy of belief’ by authority of the Catholic Church, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared.
Identifying herself as ‘The Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners,’ Mary appeared in October 1859 to a Belgian immigrant woman, Adele Brise, on the grounds of Champion Shrine, when the town was known as Robinsonville.
According to the direct accounts of those who worked with Adele throughout the years of her mission work, she was instructed, in a series of locutions by Our Lady, to ‘make a general confession, pray and offer communion for the conversion of sinners and to gather the children in the wild country to teach them what they needed to know for their salvation.’ She further instructed Adele, to ‘teach the children their catechism, how to ‘make the sign of the cross’ and how to ‘approach the sacraments.’ Mary ended by saying: ‘That is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.’
These locutions by Our Lady of Good Help became the foundation of a life-long legacy of catechetical mission work by Brise with local families. She traveled on foot in a 50-mile radius around the present-day shrine to teach and instruct as she was told by Mary. Adele's father later built a chapel on the apparition site where she also began her teaching work.
On October 8, 1871, twelve years to the date of Mary's last appearance, a Midwestern drought caused two of the worst fires in America’s history – one in Chicago and the other in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. The same drought caused an inferno that began raging through the rural area, threatening the chapel in the town of Robinsonville. Local families who had been involved with Adele Brise as part of her mission work in catechesis traveled during the fire to the chapel on the Shrine’s grounds, many with babies, small children and farm animals, to pray the rosary.
On their knees and in procession all night long, as the areas near the Shrine were reduced to ashes, those who gathered at the Shrine prayed the rosary, asking Our Lady of Good Help for her intercession with her son, Jesus, to save them from the fire. Their prayers were answered when the rains came and extinguished the fire just as it reached the chapel and Shrine grounds.
In Champion Shrine history, this event marked what many believe to be one of the first graces granted through intercessory prayer with Our Lady of Good Help, to Jesus.
This and other miraculous instances at Champion Shrine continue to be a harbinger of hope for thousands who travel on pilgrimage to pray for help and healing. To this day, many descendants of those whose lives were spared during the October 8, 1871 fire come to celebrate the miracle of the fire on that day annually, praying the rosary all night long into the following day, Oct. 9, the date historians believe marks the anniversary of the last appearance of Mary at Champion in 1859.
In December 2010, after a period of prayerful discernment during which he reviewed years of research and investigation by expert Mariologists, The Most Rev. David L. Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, determined it to be ‘worthy of belief’ that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Adele Brise.
On August 15, 2016, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared Champion a ‘National Shrine,’ by formal decree, distinguishing ‘The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help’ as the first and only Catholic Shrine in America with a Church-approved Marian Apparition Site. This and other international media coverage of events that have occurred continue to draw thousands to Champion Shrine.
As you might imagine, I have some real stories to tell about this retreat. So watch the bulletin for more in the weeks to come.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka