CHAMPION — Bishop David Ricken told an estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on Aug. 15 that they are called to the same mission as the Blessed Mother and Adele Brise: to be evangelists.
Bishop Ricken shared his new evangelization message during the annual outdoor Mass celebrating the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mass and eucharistic procession, which took place around the shrine grounds afterward, has been held for more than 150 years.
The bishop also told the gathering about an upcoming six-year plan to introduce the new evangelization to diocesan Catholics and hinted at upcoming changes at the shrine to make it more accessible to the disabled and elderly.
The Blessed Mother was “first among all disciples and … the greatest evangelizer of all times,” Bishop Ricken said during his homily on the feast day commemorating Mary’s assumption into heaven. “She was the mother of the savior … but also she learned to become a disciple and to make disciples through Jesus and his presence in her life,” he added.
Her role as evangelizer continues today, he said, through her miraculous appearances around the world.
“They say that there are well over 300 reported apparitions in the world at any given time,” said Bishop Ricken. “This one, here in Champion, has been approved officially by the church. It’s the only approved apparition in the United States. It has been revered here as true and authentic for way over 150 years.”
After Mary’s appearance to Adele Brise in 1859, the young Belgian immigrant, in turn, became an evangelizer, noted Bishop Ricken. “She would go out by foot and go from home to home and she would tell people about Jesus, teach the children to pray and introduce them to Christ and, oh, by the way, the parents were listening in as she did so.”
Just as Mary gave Adele Brise “a mission that she never abandoned,” the Blessed Mother is asking people today to do the same, said Bishop Ricken.
The new evangelization — introduced by St. John Paul II and which took root following the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, convened by Pope Benedict XVI — continues to gain momentum under the pontificate of Pope Francis. It calls Catholics to accept the same mission as Adele Brise, but in the modern world.
“Brothers and sisters, the new evangelization is not rocket science,” said Bishop Ricken. “It’s about coming to know Jesus personally as your friend, your Lord, your savior, as the closest companion in your life and being so happy about that good news … that you go out and introduce him to your family members and friends and invite them to that deep and intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ.”
To help Catholics in the Diocese of Green Bay introduce others to Jesus, Bishop Ricken is introducing a six-year plan. (See the special section inserted in The Compass print edition.)
“I ask this diocese to begin, on the feast of Christ the King this November, a six-year journey into implementing the new evangelization,” he said. “That journey is called ‘Disciples on the Way.’”
He said the first two years will be about restoring prayer in the home, including family prayer. “There is no more powerful weapon in the spiritual arsenal in the church than the holy rosary,” he said. “So we need to bring our families together. I’m asking the men in this diocese particularly: you be the spiritual fathers of your household. Don’t put everything on the women. Bring your family to prayer. Make sure you go to Mass every Sunday.”
Countless people have brought their prayer requests to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help over the past 150 years, said Bishop Ricken, and it’s important to make it accessible to everyone.
“Because of the answered prayers and miracles that are happening here … we need to make sure this place is welcoming for the sick and the handicapped, so that they feel the love of the Blessed Mother who (shares) the healing power of Jesus,” he said.
“This place has now a greater responsibility than it has ever had,” added Bishop Ricken. “I ask for your prayers, that we do exactly and only what the Blessed Mother wants. That we be obedient to her direction, that the generosity come in order to help us to walk with the pilgrims properly, that the handicapped can have access and we can commemorate the beautiful, historical buildings that are here and not lose any of it and add on to it and amplify it in such a way that God can be glorified.”
Following Mass, Bishop Ricken carried a monstrance, holding the Blessed Sacrament, around the shrine grounds, led by thousands of pilgrims who recited the rosary.