A Pilgrimage to the Wild Country: Our Lady of Good Help

I have just returned refreshed and renewed in spirit from a pilgrimage to a place once described by our Blessed Mother as “this wild country” – the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

The only Marian apparition in the United States approved by the Catholic Church, approval for the Shrine and its Chapel was received on December 8, 2010, from Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay.

Apparitions and Message

In 1859, a year after our Blessed Mother appeared in Lourdes, the Mother of God appeared three times to Adele Brice, a Belgium Immigrant, in the untamed lands near Green Bay Wisconsin. The first two apparitions were silent, Our Lady appearing between two trees, one a maple the other hemlock, along a rural trail. When she appeared for the third and final time, young Adele asked, “What more can I do, dear Lady?” Mary’s direction was simple: “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

“But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?” Adele asked. Mary replied, “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 devoted the rest of her life to spreading Mary’s good news. Her commitment continues to be as inspiring as it is humbling to the thousands of visitors that journey to the Shrine every year.

Preserved Through Fire

Adele Brice

Twelve years after the apparitions the famous Peshtigo Fire of October 9-10, 1871, occurring on the anniversary of Adele’s vision, consumed large parts of the surrounding area. This massive fire was driven by hurricane force winds spread through 400 square miles of northeastern Wisconsin, killing about 1,500 people. While others fled toward the lake for refuge, Adele and her community called on God for protection. They lifted the statue of the Blessed Virgin from the chapel and, carrying it above their heads, circled the buildings while praying for deliverance. The forest fire charred the land all around them and spread right up to the fence surrounding their enclave. Heaven answered, rain fell, the fire subsided, and not a soul on this holy ground was lost. The wooden school and church stood out like an island in the burnt landscape, as accounted in the Catholic Herald of May 23, 1935. The Belgian pioneers needed no more proof that Mary’s promise to Adele was genuine.

The deep impression I took away from my pilgrimage was the life-long devotion of Adele Brice in obedience to our Lady’s words, “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

Even though this is no longer a literal wild country,  Our Lady’s words continue to direct us in these times. We, the children of this modern wild country, our land now populated from sea to shining sea remains a spiritual wilderness that longs for the living waters flowing from the side of Christ. Our Lady’s words draw us to the basics of the Faith and direct us to approach the sacraments, that “are ‘powers that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving.” (CCC 1116).

The Order of Malta, of which I am a member, now makes an Annual Pilgrimage to this site, serving Malades, observing the order’s 900-year-old motto, Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum, Defense of the Faith and Service to the Poor.

You can easily plan a pilgrimage, small or large to The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help by clicking here.

Pilgrims may also visit the nearby National Shrine of Saint Joseph, initially established in 1888, located in the oratory of Old St. Joseph Church on the St. Norbert College campus in De Pere, Wisconsin.



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Mark J. Kelly, KM is a member of the Order of Malta and lives in Northern Bucks County, PA.




Photos courtesy of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

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