The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help for Priests

The message the Queen of Heaven gave to Adele Brise in 1859 was mission-oriented and provides a focus to the Church’s efforts of evangelization. The conversation between Adele and Our Lady is quite telling, emphasizing a two-fold dimension: prayer and action.

Since December 8, 2010, the popularity of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, has increased on account of Bishop David Ricken’s declaration of moral certainty, 1 that the 1859 apparitions are worthy of belief. Today, hundreds of people visit the shrine each day to pray at the site where Mary appeared, at the gravesite of the visionary, Sister Adele Brise, and to learn about Our Lady’s message and mission. While some come to the shrine on their own accord, others come as part of a parish pilgrimage, led by their priest. Given that the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only place recognized as a site of an approved Marian apparition in the United States of America, it is important for priests to integrate the story of this apparition into their lives and ministry. I propose a threefold approach for clergy to understanding the importance of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help: spiritual, pastoral, and missiological.

The Spiritual Aspect

It should come as no surprise that the Church expects of her priests a Marian character in their spirituality. The Church encourages the fostering of devotion to the Mother of God among her seminarians and priests. This is quite clear from the Program for Priestly Formation; the Directory on the Life and Ministry of the Priest from the Congregation for the Clergy; 2 from a 1997 address by Msgr. Norberto Rivera at the International Encounter of Priests; 3 and statements of the Holy Fathers. 4 Venerable Fulton Sheen in his book, Those Mysterious Priests, says that the priest needs Mary because she provides the feminine that he needs in his life.

From the person of Mary, we learn what it means to meditate on the Word of God; how to treasure the daily happenings of our life in our hearts; how to joyfully respond to God’s call; how to be people of service and generosity; how to return praise to God; how to be attentive to the needs of others and make intercession.

On the cross, the Lord Jesus entrusted his mother to the beloved disciple, and immediately John took Mary into his home. Have you taken Mary into your home? If you have been struggling with your devotion to Mary, perhaps a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help can help to renew that devotion. If it’s been a long time since you have prayed the rosary, consider beginning anew today. Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, she who is the Lady of Good Help, to provide her assistance in this task, and in your priestly ministry.

In addition to cultivating a greater devotion to Our Lady through the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, heeding the message of Our Lady to Adele also will affect one’s spiritual life. Like Adele, we must pray for the conversion of sinners—those in our parishes, communities, the world, and yes, even for our own conversion. Furthermore, the regular confession of a priest to his confessor/spiritual director will only make him a better confessor to the people of God. The life of a priest is busy, but the story of Sister Adele reminds us that we must not put ministry before prayer, but rather, ministry should flow from prayer.

The Pastoral Aspect

The people of God are especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and many make pilgrimages to Our Lady’s shrines throughout the world. There are three different types of places individuals can make pilgrimages. First, many shrines to Our Lady are devotional, such as the National Shrine of Our Lady, Help of Christians in Hubertus, Wisconsin, or the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, to name only two.  They have been built because of the people’s devotion to a particular title of Our Lady.

The second type of Marian shrine is a place commemorating a Marian apparition. These shrines are, of course, popular in Europe where there was a proliferation of Marian apparitions in the 19th and 20th centuries. Such places include Fatima, Lourdes, La Sallette, Rue du Bac, and many others.

The third type of place for Marian pilgrimage is to places of ongoing apparitions, or even condemned apparitions. When it comes to these Marian apparitions, and private revelation in general, the faithful usually turn to their priest for advice. It would be important pastorally for a priest to familiarize himself with unapproved apparitions, and the Church’s position with ongoing apparitions, so as to be able to guide the faithful. A few unapproved apparitions in the United States that I am aware of include: Necedah, Wisconsin; Bayside, New York; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Conyers, Georgia. Recently, the Diocese of Cleveland clarified its position regarding the messages associated with Holy Love Ministries. This ministry now classifies itself as ecumenical since the bishop’s negative ruling.

There are people in the pews who are devoted to these unapproved apparitions, and make pilgrimages to these “holy” sites. Since the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only approved Marian apparition in the United States, it would be best for pastors to recommend pilgrimage to this site of approved Marian apparitions. Consider preaching about Our Lady’s apparition from the pulpit, advertise the shrine in your parish bulletin, or plan a parish pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. 5

The Missiological Aspect

The message the Queen of Heaven gave to Adele Brise in 1859 was mission-oriented and provides a focus to the Church’s efforts of evangelization. The conversation between Adele and Our Lady is quite telling, emphasizing a two-fold dimension: prayer and action. The first words of Our Lady were, “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same.” Our Lady went on to affirm Adele’s reception of Holy Communion earlier that morning, but Our Lady told her she had to do more; she was to offer her Holy Communion for the conversion of sinners, and to make a general confession. Finally, Our Lady told Adele to gather the children, and teach them their catechism, how to make the Sign of the Cross, and what they need to know for salvation.

We can look back on a time when catechesis was lacking. In 2010, when the shrine was catapulted into the spotlight with its approval, much attention was given to the catechetical component of the message. We should not overlook or divorce the first part of Our Lady’s message from the mission component, for they are interconnected. Before Adele was to go out and teach the children, she first had to pray and go to the sacraments. If she was going to labor for the conversion of sinners, she first had to pray for the conversion of those to whom she would minister. Adele needed to be converted herself before she could convert others.

Our Lady’s apparition reveals to us the significance of prayer, and the practice of the sacraments, as part of evangelization. If we want successful catechesis programs in parishes, we must form our catechists in prayer. We cannot give what we do not have, so we first must be evangelized before we ourselves can evangelize. We must first come to know Jesus before leading others to know Jesus.

Some people may not be called to become catechists, but handing on the faith is not restricted to a CCD classroom. Catechesis can happen in the ordinary and the mundane. The simple action of praying before a meal in a restaurant can be a teaching moment. In the Office of Readings for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, we read, “let your words teach and your actions preach.”

The priest is central to the message that Our Lady gave for he is the one who offers Mass and hears confessions. Even more so, the priest works towards fulfilling Our Lady’s message in his daily ministry. The priest prays daily for the people of God in the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours; and in his homilies, the people of God are instructed and exhorted to live Christian values and grow in virtue.

The message of Our Lady to Adele speaks to the priest, because like Adele, he, too, must be converted in his own life, and experience a daily conversion of heart. He, too, must approach the sacraments worthily, and regularly go to confession. Lastly, in order for Our Lady’s message to Adele Brise to be fully realized, the priest must make the sacraments available, as well as opportunities for catechesis. In so doing, people will be able to offer their communion for the conversion of sinners, confess their sins, and know what they need for salvation.

Conclusion

It has been more than three years now since Bishop David Ricken declared, with moral certainty, that the apparitions received by Adele Brise are worthy of belief. Before reading this article, were you aware of this shrine? If not, familiarize yourself with its miraculous history which includes the miraculous preservation from the Peshtigo Fire in 1871.

Our world needs to encounter the divine and miraculous. Many people are longing to come to know God in a deeper way, and grow in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many people are searching for a miraculous healing for themselves or a loved one. They do not need to go too far-off places in Europe; they can now make a pilgrimage, and seek a prayerful refuge, in the countryside of Northeastern Wisconsin. Invite them to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help where the Blessed Virgin Mary continues to provide her intercession and good help to those who flock there, and offer their “Aves.” When they enter the property of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, they will find a peaceful and tranquil place, where in 1859, God sent his Mother with a special message and mission for Adele Brise, which was not limited only to her, but still extends to the world today. As Adele was sent by the Blessed Virgin to go and fear nothing, because Our Lady would help her, the same is true for us in the ministry God calls us to.

  1. The full text is available online in this PDF.
  2. Available online here.
  3. Available online here.
  4. Such statements can be found in many addresses, homilies, and writings of the Holy Fathers.  One such example is John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis.
  5. A good time to preach on the Shrine or organize a pilgrimage would be during the month of May, regarded as a month dedicated to Mary.  The Shrine also has special celebrations throughout the year, including two outdoor Masses: one on the last Sunday of May and the other on August 15th.  The appellation of Our Lady to Adele was as the Queen of Heaven.  Preaching on the feast of the Queenship about Our Lady’s apparition would also be fitting.
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avatar About Rev. Mr. Edward Lee Looney

Edward Looney is a recently-ordained deacon for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and studies at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. He has published and spoken extensively on the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. He has four books on the shrine available through Tau Publishing. For more information about Deacon Looney, visit his website at: http://edwardlooney.com.

Comments

  1. avatar martin B. Drew says:

    Thank Deacon Looney for this article on the apparition is Wisconsin. I did not know of this apparition .I only knew of the apparitions of Mexico City 1n 1521 with the imprint of Our Lady on the Indians apron, Paris 1830Rue de bac which I visited with mass, 1846 La Salette, 1858 Lourde, Fatima 1917 and 1932 in Banneux and Beuraing .Belgium There were definitive reasons that Jesus had his mother visit these visionaries. and she gave the messages to them. for that particular area and for the Universal Church. This is a gift from God.

  2. avatar Glenna says:

    I’ve been to this Shrine twice & would very much like to return. I’ve often wondered about the silence from the pulpit re: the only approved apparition in this country. Are we embarrassed of our Mother? Is it too pietistic or just ignorance? At any rate, I’ve been puzzled about it & I’m grateful for your article. Sharing!

    • avatar Noelangelo Kristofferson says:

      I have often wondered why it is claimed that this is the only approved apparition in the USA, as we have the apparition of Our Lady of America, but is not being promoted, hence, not well known. You can search in and read for yourself. Thank you.

      • avatar Rev. Mr. Edward Lee Looney says:

        There has been no official investigation into the Our Lady of America apparitions by a diocese, thus no decree. Simply because Raymond Cardinal Burke wrote a letter of support does not necessitate the Church’s investigative approbation.

  3. avatar Vanessa Meyer says:

    My family & I went for our 2nd pilgrimage to OUR LADY OF GOOD HELP last year 2013 my husband was IMMEDIATELY HEALED of MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, (diagnosed the previous day by a neurologist) after praying in the crypt. Our 1st pilgrimage was 2 yrs. Before BISHOP DAVID RICKIN approved the site. We are going for our 3rd visit in THANKSGIVING!!…..for tomorrow July 9,10,11, 2014!!

    • avatar Laura says:

      Thank you for sharing this remarkable grace! I will offer prayers for thanksgiving for your husband’s healing and your 3rd visit in the coming days! I visited the Shrine two years ago and found it to be a place of exquisite peace, true “holy ground”. Our Blessed Mother’s and Our Lord’s Presence are palpable there, I did not want to leave…the type of peace that permeates every cell of one’s being, extraordinary!

      God bless you and please continue to share your testimony with others, the world needs to hear so many more stories of Blessed Mother’s intercession in these dark times.

  4. avatar Ted Alexander says:

    My wife and I visit our daughter in Wisconsin yearly. We have visited the shrine for the last three years and we love being there. We truly have been blessed to have this in our beautlful country.

  5. avatar Jackie berg says:

    I send this so misinformation doesn’t hurt a work of God. Written by a priest-and found on the website of Holy love-

    Can you explain your relationship with the Diocese of Cleveland? I’ve seen confusing statements and quotations.
    Concerning the Relationship of Holy Love Ministries with the Cleveland Catholic Diocese:

    I am the Spiritual Director of this Ministry and would like to comment on this situation.

    Since we are frequently asked, we would like to state clearly that the Bishop has not condemned the Holy Love Ministries prayer site. It is a serious point to remember that non-approval is not disapproval. Apparently the diocesan authorities have given a few minor discouraging points in statements made: They state that they are not supporting this site. This is obvious and appropriate, as it is an ecumenical group. Catholic Church support has not been sought. Nor has the group represented itself as Catholic.

    They have apparently warned people to be cautious about donations. Certainly that is not a bad thing, although difficult to understand as their main emphasis, since the site is free for all to visit, and the messages are given freely to anyone who asks.

    They have also stated that this ministry is ecumenical. That is true. The Gospel message being taken to heart at this site is for all people and all nations. This was presented and agreed upon in a meeting with the diocese five years ago at which I was present. This frees the diocese from being bothered by the media and others who may be asking their opinion of the ministry.

    What the diocese has not claimed is that there is anything against faith or morals for there is not! They find themselves in the strange position of admiring what praying occurs there, and yet discouraging people from going there to pray!

    The diocese does not apparently make mention of the fruits at this apparition site, which are abundant. In particular the group meets to pray against abortion, for peace in the world, for priests, and that all people and all nations will begin to live by loving God above all else and neighbor as self. This prayer takes the form of rosaries, chaplets, singing, and processions. Private prayer and meditation are encouraged for all visiting pilgrims. Active spiritual lives in their church communities is the frequent fruit of their spiritual progress.

    This rosary group was not welcome to meet and pray in most of the local churches, in spite of the fact that it is not a dissenting Catholic group along the lines of the Call to Action people (who are quite active in the area). We uphold Catholic teaching and are loyal to the Pope and his teachings, since we seek and cling to the truth. Mary has come to us as the Mother of all people, and we are responding to her request for prayer, penance and conversion. And we are taking that message to all people and all nations.

    Cardinal Ratzinger in his commentary on the Third Secret of Fatima pointed out that private revelation refers to “all the visions and revelations that have taken place since the completion of the New Testament.” He encourages us that they do not add anything new to public revelation, but help us live more fully the Gospel teachings in certain periods of history. The Cardinal states that private revelations take into account the signs of the times, and their main purpose is to lead people to salvation, by exhortations to prayer, penance, conversion. What fault can be found, then, with the commandments of love given by Jesus that are spoken of in all the messages propagated at this apparition site? In reading the recent revelations Jesus has made there about the Chambers of His Sacred Heart, one cannot help but be led to greater love of Jesus and Mary. And it is evident that many people who come to the site or study the messages are led to this greater love, by the many testimonies of conversion, return to the Church, non-Catholics beginning to pray the rosary and study Scripture more intensely, physical cures, solar miracles, etc.

    This Ministry is a rare case of an apparition site growing up around a message given to the visionary. This message is pure Gospel. Love God above all else. Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus and Blessed Mother have been explaining and giving examples of exactly how to do this in today’s world. The messages are freely available on the internet, http://www.holylove.org for those willing to assess the facts by study, rather than by jumping to conclusions based on hearsay. The property is open free of charge to anyone wanting to experience the graces of God granted to pilgrims.

    My questions are: Why is this apparition not judged according to its fruits, and instead judged because it needs minimal funds to maintain the property? And why judged for being ecumenical which has ordinarily been deemed a worthy goal in Catholic circles?

    Throughout history God has visited His people or sent representatives from heaven with messages, directives, warnings, promises, for His beloved people’s spiritual and physical well-being. His chosen visionaries are prophets who are His spokespersons. Prophets (visionaries for the most part) have not been well-treated by civil as well as Church authorities historically. Jesus Himself is a case in point.

    In our day, it would seem that judging by the hundreds of reports from all parts of the world, the Blessed Virgin Mary is THE prophetess of our time, and she is not being treated well by Church authorities. She is giving us very urgent messages, calling us back to God. She accompanies her visits with signs and wonders, conversions, healings, solar miracles, etc. Where people gather in great numbers those things are happening. But, while lay people recognize a miracle when they see one, Church authorities are reluctant to recognize these spectacular goings-on. They often discourage people from visiting those places without any justifiable reason. And yet it is the belief of the common faithful that has, and always will play an important role in the belief of Marian apparitions, and thereby enabling the spiritual effects Heaven desired in the first place. (Perhaps Acts 5: 34-39 would be an appropriate reference here. Gamaliel the Pharisee had wise advice.)

    Catholics should feel free to go to this apparition site and pray. They have not been forbidden to do so. They will be led to deeper spirituality, greater participation in the sacraments of their faith, strengthening of their loyalty to Pope John Paul II, a deeper longing for Jesus in the Eucharist, love of His Blessed Mother, and a greater understanding of the Father’s Will in their daily life.

    Non-Catholics should feel free to go to this apparition site and pray. They will be led to a deeper spirituality, a longing for the truth, an understanding of the Father’s place in their daily life.

    Extending to you the Blessings of the United Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
    Rev. Frank Kenney, S.M.

    • avatar Rev. Mr. Edward Lee Looney says:

      Dear Jackie,
      It would be interesting to know the date of Fr. Kenney’s comments. They may be outdated now, since the Bishop of Cleveland did issue a statement concerning the apparitions.
      The Bishop of Cleveland’s declaration of November 11, 2011 is quite clear:
      1) Not supernatural in origin
      2) Forbid the celebration of the sacraments.
      3) Admonishes the faithful to cease gathering and participating in devotions
      4) Declaration that the confraternity is not an approved association of the Christian faithful.

  6. avatar Joel Fago says:

    For those out West who cannot travel to Wisconsin, but are close to Arizona, come to the shrine of Our Lady of the Sierras, http://www.ourladyofthesierras.org/ It is being rebuilt after the devastating Monument Fire destroyed much of it but not the chapel, the cross and the statue of Our Lady.

  7. avatar JoAnn Volker says:

    My husband and I just visited the beautiful apparition site of Our Lady of Good Help. It is a very
    prayerful and loving place. The priests, Mass, confession, homilies and the whole site was soooo
    very prayerful to me which words cannot explain. It has deepened my prayer life even more. I do want to
    go back. People….we need to TRUST. We need to go out and evangelize our Catholic FAITH.
    We need to tell people what’s in our heart and share our experiences with others and bring them
    back to the Faith that Jesus Christ founded. God Bless all our priests and may we encourage them
    in all they do for the faithful. Blessings to all…
    JoAnn

  8. avatar Laura says:

    Our family would like to visit the shrine this year. Can anyone recommend a good RV campsite that is near the shrine? Thank you and God bless you!

  9. avatar Martin B. Drew says:

    Bishop Ricken was interviewed on EWTN about three weeks ago and gave a clear explanation about Adele Brise and the apparition in Wisconsin. I think Raymond Arroyo was the interviewer . It must be spiritually enlightening to visit it. When I visited Rue de Bac in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity where the BVM sat in the director’s chair and St Catherine Laboure placed her hands on Mary’s lap. Only silent meditation was there with mass also. in the same chapel. but not the same chair. Sister Ann told us they didn’t know where the chair was. . That was 1830 in Paris .

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