Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, made history on December 8th, 2010. He became the first bishop in the United States to formally approve an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 1859, Our Lady had appeared three times to a young Belgian farm girl at a spot north east of Green Bay. The third time, when the young woman asked the Lady who she was and what she wanted, she called herself the Queen of Heaven and told her to pray for the conversion of sinners.
The Lady asked, “What are you doing here in idleness while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?”
“What more can I do, dear Lady?” the woman asked.
“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.” “Go and fear nothing,” she continued, “I will help you.”
The woman, whose named was Adele Brise, spent the rest of her life dedicating herself to the mission of teaching children. Soon a chapel, called the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, was built on the spot and it became a popular place of pilgrimage, but a bishop had never issued a decision (in the Catholic Church, it is the local bishop’s responsibility to investigate alleged apparitions). Bishop Ricken’s decree was the fruit of a two-year investigation to ensure that the apparition was consistent with the teaching of the Church and other approved appearances of Mary. Besides the conversation with the seer herself, the investigation focused on the witness of her life, which was humble and full of faith. Also, the authenticity of the apparition was supported by the miraculous salvation during the Peshtigo fire in 1871. When the fire burned the entire surrounding area of the Door County Peninsula, the Shrine itself, the five acres of ground dedicated to Mary, and all the people praying inside were spared.
Bishop Ricken said that he was prompted to investigate and ultimately approve the apparition not only because of the remarkable historical events, but because the message of Our Lady is still important today. Today the Church needs to dedicate itself to prayer, to the message of conversion, and to teaching everyone what is necessary for salvation.