When young Belgian immigrant Adele Brise arrived in Wisconsin with her family, she may have expected adventure, but not to witness the first approved Marian apparition in the United States.
In October 1859, while carrying grain to a mill, 28-year-old Adele experienced her first vision near the area now called New Franken. Adele saw a woman bathed in a bright light and dressed in white, a yellow sash, and a crown of stars. Unsure and frightened, Adele prayed until the vision disappeared.
The following Sunday, the lady appeared again on Adele’s way to Mass. Adele immediately consulted with her priest, who advised that she should ask the woman, “In the Name of God, who are you and what do you wish of me?”
Adele saw the apparition a third time on her way home from Mass the same day, and followed the priest’s instructions. Mary told her: “I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same.” Our Lady then gave Adele the mission to “gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”
From that time onward, Adele dedicated her life to catechetical mission work. She traveled a 50-mile radius on foot to serve local families and teach children about the Catholic faith. At the site of the Marian apparition, Adele’s father built a small twelve-foot chapel, where many pilgrims visited and prayed for Our Lady’s intercession.
Twelve years after Adele first encountered the Blessed Mother, a great drought beset the Midwest. This drought caused the Peshtigo Fire, the worst recorded fire in U.S. history. As the fire approached Robinsonville, local families that Adele had served came together at the chapel grounds with their children and livestock to pray the Rosary, beseeching Our Lady to ask Jesus to save them. They prayed through the night—and while the fire destroyed the surrounding land, the chapel area and all who had gathered there remained untouched.
This became the first of many miraculous occurrences through Our Lady of Good Help’s intercession.
In 1942, a new church was constructed at the site. Devotion to Our Lady of Good Help flourished. In 2010, after much time and discernment by expert Mariologists, the Church formally pronounced Mary’s appearances to Adele as “worthy of belief.” The church constructed at the site was later designated as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, making it the first and only shrine with a Church-approved Marian apparition site in the USA.