On my way to a two-day workshop on classical education in the Diocese of Marquette, I made a detour to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in New Franklin. The drive from Milwaukee is a peaceful one that takes you north, away from the city and through the heart of bucolic Wisconsin. You pass farm after farm, silo after silo and notice your fair share of cows grazing on verdant fields. The air is fresh and pure. I enjoy the open windows a lot more here than in the city.
The grounds of the shrine mark the spot where pious tradition tells us the Virgin Mary appeared to a Belgian nun named Adele Joseph Brise in 1859. The message was not complicated or esoteric. It stressed the need for catechesis and prayer. Mary said to Sister Brise,
I am the Queen of Heaven […] Gather the children in this wild country, and teach them what they need to know for salvation … their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the cross, and how to approach the sacraments.
The Queen of Heaven came to the untamed woods of central Wisconsin to stress the importance of making the sign of the cross and praying well. It’s the simple stuff we need to hear again and again.
Bishop David Ricken, of the Diocese of Green Bay, approved the apparitions as “worthy of belief” in 2010 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The bishop’s decree reads in part,
I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.
Don’t go to Our Lady of Good Help expecting to see a soaring shrine like the one at Fatima or Lourdes. This is simple. It’s rural Wisconsin and, as part of the Wisconsin experience, you’re sure to take in the smells of the nearby farms as you pull in. But the shrine’s simplicity is its strength (in my opinion) and it is an incredibly peaceful place to make a pilgrimage, talk to God and His Mother and leave some intentions with them.