Thousands attend feast of Assumption events at shrine

By | August 24, 2011

Last month, to accommodate the growing number of shrine visitors, two religious order priests were appointed to the shrine by Bishop Ricken. Fr. Peter Stryker and Fr. Jewel Aytona, members of the Fathers of Mercy based in Auburn, Ky., were named rector and chaplain, respectively. With their presence, the shrine can offer expanded opportunities for Mass and the sacrament of confession.


Joseph Pendred, 4, son of Vincent and Kelly Pendred of Burton, Mich., watches the Knights of Columbus fourth degree honor guard enter the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help Chapel following a Mass and rosary procession held on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15.(Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The shrine rector and chaplain joined Bishop Ricken and several diocesan priests for the outdoor Mass on the feast of the Assumption. Attendance at this year’s Mass was estimated at more than 3,000, according to Karen Tipps, a volunteer at the shrine for nearly 20 years. Last year about 1,500 people attended the service.

The shrine was anticipating as many as 5,000 people for this year’s service, said Tipps, but she was pleased with the turnout. She said the shrine staff will need to review the traffic flow into the shrine and how to ensure the safety of people who park along Highway K, where the shrine is located, and walk to the shrine.

“We started (parking cars) at seven this morning and it still wasn’t quite enough time to get all the people shuttled here from the roadways,” said Tipps. In addition to on-site parking, visitors parked in a nearby farm field and a shuttle bus was used to transport them to the shrine.

“If we do have farmers’ fields in the future to park on, we’ll just make sure we have more shuttle buses to get people here,” said Tipps, who estimated that 75 percent of those in attendance were from outside of the diocese.

“I’m glad (Mary) gave us a beautiful day and that we survived — so far,” she told The Compass following the rosary procession. “Not everybody is out of here yet and so we pray that everybody gets out safely because it’s kind of a traffic jam here.”

Among those arriving early at the shrine for the 10 a.m. Mass was Bishop Ricken, who was interviewed for a live television appearance at 5:45 a.m. The shrine’s recent publicity also attracted a group of anti-Catholic protestors from a fundamentalist church in Monroe, Wis. About 10 people stood near the shrine entrance holding signs and handing out leaflets challenging Catholic teaching on Mary. The protestors’ presence went mostly unnoticed and no confrontations took place.

During his homily, Bishop Ricken welcomed the crowd of worshippers, most of whom sat on folding chairs and blankets under the shade of trees and umbrellas.

“It is truly a great blessing to be here with you especially this year, as this is the first celebration of the Assumption since the declaration of the authenticity of the apparitions,” he said.

After reviewing a meditation about Mary’s assumption written by Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Ricken spoke about the need to continue teaching the faith to children, just as Adele Brise did 150 years ago. He said that with his declaration last December, “the church is saying, after a long process of study and discernment, and after many, many years of celebrating this Mass on this day, all through these intervening years, this apparition and these locutions are worthy of your belief.”

While Catholics are not obliged to believe the apparitions took place, Bishop Ricken added, “Why wouldn’t you believe it and follow what the Blessed Mother has directed us to do to get our lives in proper order?”

Bishop Ricken said that since his declaration, many people have asked questions.

“People ask me, ‘Bishop, why now?’ ‘Bishop, why here?’ ‘Bishop, why you?’

“Why now? It took a long time for the church to declare that Mary was assumed into heaven and it took some time for the church to discern the authenticity of what happened here,” he said. “Even though so many of you have believed and followed the work of this shrine for so many years and have been affected by it personally.”

Bishop Ricken noted that his predecessors in the last 150 years have given their approval of the shrine. “Especially by their presence of celebrating this Mass on Aug. 15.”

He said Mary’s appearance in Champion made sense at the time.

“Adele Brise lived an excellent and exemplary life, a simple life,” he said. “And she called other women to join her in proclaiming the Gospel and catechizing the children.” This challenge of catechizing children “speaks to our generation.”

“This is a message that must be heard and practiced today,” added Bishop Ricken. “That’s why this is the answer to now. In our world that has gotten so complicated, we need to hear this simple message, to know the basic teaching of our church, the basic teaching of the Gospel and to be able to raise our children in the faith.”

When he arrived in Green Bay, Bishop Ricken said that Bishop David Zubik briefed him on the history of the shrine. “He thought that this apparition was worthy of an investigation, that some kind of official decision needed to be made and he encouraged me to begin to conduct the investigation,” said Bishop Ricken.

“Children now, more than ever, need to be given the tools of knowledge, of love and to be taught to serve,” Bishop Ricken told the crowd. “The Blessed Mother told Adele to reach out, to help form the children, that they may be strong witnesses in the faith. Now, my brothers and sisters, we need to take this invitation again and look at it anew; to allow ourselves to be renewed by a faithful adherence to the teaching of the church; and to make sure that it is passed on and is integral to the faith life of our children.”

Following Mass, Bishop Ricken joined in a rosary procession around the five-acre shrine grounds. In solemn procession, he carried a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. Following veneration, a benediction concluded the event.

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