Bishop Ricken to celebrate Aug. 15 Mass at shrine

By | August 5, 2009

Bishop Ricken will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m., followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a rosary procession around the shrine grounds. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the reported apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Adele Brice.

The Aug. 15 event will be filmed for use in a documentary DVD being produced by Ashley Cross.

Fr. Milton Suess, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Luxemburg, recently discovered an article written by Fr. Adalbert Cipin, a deceased priest of the Diocese of Green Bay. In his article, Fr. Cipin described his experience of this celebration in 1887. The letter, written in Czech, was translated by Fr. Suess. It is titled, “We Fly to Your Cloak.”

The entire text of the letter follows here:

The Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Good Help in the Belgian settlement, which came into existence with many families from Belgium in the 50’s and 60’s, (along the eastern shore of Green Bay) was built close to the parish church in Martinsville through the encouragement of a devout lady, who is simply known by the name Adele. She was short in stature; she lost one eye due to smallpox. She lived among her own people and saw how the youth were growing up without benefit of religious instruction, since all the Belgian parishes – there were about 9 of them – were served by just one priest (that was in the 80’s). He traveled from one church to another. He also offered weekday Masses for the people, baptized, and gave the last sacraments – and then hurried on to another part of his responsibility.

In such circumstances he could not conduct religious instruction substantially or regularly. A devout lady took this task as her own, and she thought out how she might help spiritually. Just at that time, she had a vision. As she herself told it, the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, that she should use her best efforts to put up a school for teaching religion to the young and she herself should devote herself to this project. On the spot near a garden where a statue of the Blessed Virgin as set up in commemoration of the vision, a chapel was constructed (small wooden) on the altar.

The decoration of the chapel was very humble. The start of the school was immediately undertaken. At the beginning, Sister Adele taught alone. As the number of children increased, she took to herself more girls, whom she herself instructed to help in her work of teaching. They entered the Third Order of St. Francis. From the gifts and offerings of the well-wishers, a convent was put up. All these simple wooden buildings lasted until 1885. At that time, a presentable and spacious chapel was built. The convent and school were built under one roof in a worthy style. The buildings are made of bricks. To this point, this school is the only Catholic school in the entire Belgian Settlement. What good has been accomplished for the education of Belgian youth in this institution is known only to God. Sister Adele, who started this great project, is already several years in the grave. Surely, He who said, “Whoever receives one of these little ones in my name receives me”, rewarded her generously. The institution flourishes and produces good fruit for time and eternity.

Report of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary spread through the region and, after the construction of the chapel, pilgrimages were made even from a distance to the Chapel of the Lady of Good Help. And, from the gifts of the pilgrims, it was possible later to construct a new chapel and new convent, as mentioned above. The main pilgrimage at the Chapel takes place on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Individual pilgrims, crowds in procession and groups of pilgrims stay overnight in empty school rooms and in neighboring homes and barns. Sometimes there are more than 3,000. I, myself, have often led pilgrimages to the memorial chapel. Of my first pilgrimage to this place, which I made with my people, I wish to tell a remarkable story to the honor of her who we call “Help of Christians” and “Health of the Sick”. I tell to our readers everything as I saw it with my own eyes; let each one judge according to his own reasoning.

In the year 1887, before the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, I was urged by devout settlers that I should announce in my communities a pilgrimage to the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, that we will make a great procession. And so a large procession went from Carlton and Stangelville. We went early in the morning after Mass. Along the way we prayed and sang Marian songs. Old Mr. Pribyl was song leader and led us in song and prayer. When we came to the road leading from St. John, another procession joined ours, led by singer Jakub Novak. Many Polish people came on foot, as well as on carts. At noon, we stopped in the church of St. Mary in Luxemburg, where we did some devotions and where we rested and refreshed ourselves. In the afternoon, we went on farther and stopped at the church of St. Peter in Lincoln.

From there we had to go only 5 miles to our goal. It was a beautiful day and the sun was warm. I was very sweated, and they urged me to take a ride on a wagon on which a Polish man and his young wife rode. She had a small child. I sat next to the Polish man about 35 years old. In the great heat, he had around his neck a heavy woolen shawl. I saw that he breathed with difficulty. I asked what was wrong, and he replied that he had diphtheria and that his throat was choked up. It was difficult to understand him; his heavy, wheezing breath underscored the truth of his words, likewise the smell coming from his mouth. I said, “What occurred to you with such a dangerous illness to travel? You should have stayed home and sent for a doctor”. With difficulty, he replied, “Your Reverence, for this reason I am on pilgrimage, that the Mother of God would heal me”. His confidence brought me joy. But the worry about what would happen to this very sick man never left me.

The last mile to the chapel, I went on foot. In the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary we did our devotions. Our song leader, Jakub Novak, intoned the hymn, “We Run to Your Cloak”. But in a moment, he fell to the ground, overcome by heat and effort. We raised him up and continued the devotions. I, in turn, went to the convent to check on the sick Polish man. He lay on the floor on a straw mat and was feeling bad. Sister Adele was standing near him and I said, “How does he dare make such a journey when he is so sick! What are we to do with him? Do you have here some sulfur powder? We will try to blow it into his throat.” “His jaws are already set; he cannot open them”, said Sister Adele. I said, “Just bring the sulfur and a spoon with a strong handle.” I made a small tube from paper and dropped crushed sulfur onto it. Sister Adele, with all her might, forced the handle of the spoon between the teeth of the Polish man and with strong leverage opened his jaw. Some small amount of sulfur I blew into the mouth of the sick man, who lay as if dead and who breathed with difficulty. I left the sick man, intending that if he were not better, I would give the last sacraments. I went to the small sacristy behind the chapel. I still had a large portion of the breviary to pray. That took about an hour. During my prayers, I remembered the sick man, and the thought recurred to me, why a man with such sickness would dare make such a pilgrimage! To my ears came the woeful cries of the unfortunate wife of the sick man, who, with the baby on her arm, walked about and called to the Blessed Mother of Good Help. It was sad to listen to it, and again she returned to her husband.
After I finished my breviary, I was called to the convent. When I entered the dining room, I could hardly believe my eyes. The Polish man, just recently so sick, sat at the table healthy, and he breathed freely. When Sister brought him a cup of tea, he ate and drank. This man, who shortly before could not swallow or even open his mouth, whom death threatened by choking, sat at the table entirely recovered. “The Blessed Mother helped,” I said to him. “For this I went on pilgrimage,” he answered, “that the Virgin Mother would heal me.” This he spoke without wheezing or rasping voice, as was the case when I sat with him on the wagon. Now he spoke with clear and intelligible voice. We can imagine how happy was his wife, and how devoutly she thanked the Lord and his powerful intercessor, the Mother of God.


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