This past Dec. 8 was truly a unique privilege and honor for me and the entire Diocese of Green Bay as we announced the official approval of the apparitions at Our Lady of Good Help Shrine in Champion. This was a moment in history, but is certainly an approval that merely made explicit what had implicitly been approved by the stream of faithful going to the shrine for prayer and by the ongoing presence by the bishops of this diocese for the annual Aug. 15 Mass.
Some people are asking, "Why now and why not before?" This is a very good question. In 1978 the Vatican released a document to assist bishops in outlining a process whereby a bishop could examine such events about the "worthiness of belief" of purported apparitions. It recommends establishing a team of Marian experts to study whatever is evidentiary about the event and to study the apparitions, the locutions (sayings of the Blessed Mother), the qualities of the visionary, etc. The team of experts was given by the diocese every document extant in diocesan and shrine records so that an analysis could be done.
Documents included correspondence from Adele Brise to the bishop and other historical documents, testimonies about answered prayers and physical healings and other historical data regarding the growth and development of the shrine. Their task was to raise any objections and to affirm whatever good is present in the data, as well as to compare it to other Marian apparitions that have been approved. While some concerns and objections were raised, the concerns were answered by the experts and the doubts were put to rest.
The fact that the analysis concluded that these apparitions and events surrounding them have had such a positive impact for so many years — and the fact that these events fulfill the main classical elements present in a fully approved apparition — led me to conclude that the sense of the faithful and the implicit approval of the bishops of Green Bay have been right all along. Therefore, explicit approval ought to be made. The 1978 document of the Holy See, the results of the study of the experts, and a great deal of prayer have persuaded me to make this decision as the diocesan bishop, a decision which is the domain of the diocesan bishop.
When I first learned about Our Lady of Good Help shortly after being appointed to the Diocese of Green Bay, and after my first visit there, I wondered why more people did not know about the shrine. I realized that in some way the shrine is a light, but this light needs to shine more brightly so that others may benefit by praying through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help.
My thanks go to Fr. John Doerfler whom I named rector of the shrine several years ago, to Steven and Karen Tipps and their family for the wonderful care they give to the shrine, to the pilgrims who come there and to the memory of Adele Brise and the story of her life. I also thank the board of directors who have helped guide the direction of the shrine and to the many neighbors and volunteers who have kept this shrine going for so many years and for so many generations.
Our Lady of Good Help, guide us and pray for us.