National designation leads to more pilgrims in Champion

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | October 5, 2016

Special events, including national novena, bring hundreds to shrine

CHAMPION — As the autumn days become shorter and colder, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help continues to see a steady number of pilgrims. This trend sees no change in October, as multiple events, beginning with a National Novena to Our Lady of Good Help, are now underway.

On the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop David Ricken announced that the site had been formally designated as a national shrine by the U.S. bishops. Since then, the number of visitors, possibly piqued by curiosity of the shrine’s national designation, continued to grow, according to Walt Fountain, operations manager at the shrine.

New signage near the entrance of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion reflects the pilgrimage site’s recent designation as a national shrine. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
New signage near the entrance of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion reflects the pilgrimage site’s recent designation as a national shrine. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“We have definitely seen more interest and excitement about coming out to hear our Blessed Mother’s message here in Champion,” he told The Compass on Sept. 30. “We have seen at least 25 if not closer to about 35 percent increase, year over year, in the month of September.”

Fountain said the shrine had 26 pilgrimage groups in September. “In addition, a lot of families and individuals are coming out. … Even today, on a cloudy Friday, we will see 300 to 350 people.”

Among the hundreds visiting the shrine on Sept. 30 were Carolyn and Santi Ocari and their two young children from Rochester, Minn.

For Santi, it was his first visit. “I went to school here at UWGB and my wife and I both skied for the (cross country) team. “So we would roller ski these roads all of the time,” he said. “I had no idea it was here.”

Carolyn was confirmed at Holy Cross Parish in Bay Settlement, he added, “so she had been here before.” Both graduated in 2010 and were back in Green Bay for a wedding. After learning about the shrine and its national designation, he decided that “we are absolutely going” to visit.

Sonia Ocariz, 3, daughter of Carolyn and Santi Ocariz of Rochester, Minn., pets the lamb on a statue of Jesus at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion Sept. 30. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Sonia Ocariz, 3, daughter of Carolyn and Santi Ocariz of Rochester, Minn., pets the lamb on a statue of Jesus at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion Sept. 30. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The site’s national designation came nearly six years after Bishop Ricken formally approved the apparition of Our Lady of Good Help to Adele Brise on three occasions in October 1859. His decree on Dec. 8, 2010, made the shrine at Champion the only site in the United States with a church approved Marian apparition.

“We’ve gotten lots of good help in people telling others about what our Blessed Mother came here to tell people and (she) wants people to come back and be embraced by her as she brings them closer to her son,” said Fountain.

According to Fountain, word of mouth, as well as national coverage from EWTN and Relevant Radio has helped bring more pilgrims to the shrine. At least two large pilgrimages are planned in 2017, he said.

The Diocesan Council of Catholic Women will hold a Marian conference at the shrine, with a keynote speaker from Fatima, Portugal, in attendance. In August, the Order of Malta will hold a pilgrimage to the shrine that will bring in upwards of 250 people, said Fountain.

The inaugural National Novena to Our Lady of Good Help, which began Oct. 1 with a retreat led by Father of Mercy Bill Casey, kicked off nine days of special events that will conclude on Apparition Day, Oct. 9. Among the highlights:

  • A Mass and healing service Oct. 2 led by Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide;
  • An Oct. 8, 11 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Ricken, which will include a healing service for people with Lyme disease and other infectious diseases.
  • The annual “Miracle of the Fire Prayer Service” with an evening rosary procession and all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Oct. 8. The service commemorates the events of 1871 when the shrine was spared from the Peshtigo Fire.
  • To close out the novena, an Apparition Day Mass on Oct. 9 will be celebrated by Bishop Ricken at 11 a.m.

Fountain said other special events are planned for October. The shrine will welcome relics on two separate occasions: “Relics of the Passion,” including a relic of the True Cross, will be at the shrine on Oct. 14 and 15. “Treasures of the Church,” with approximately 150 relics of the saints, will visit the shrine on Oct. 17.

A special presentation on the relics will be held for school children at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 17, said Fountain. About 200 children will be in attendance.

As part of a state-wide “act of entrustment to Mary,” proclaimed by Wisconsin’s Catholic bishops, the shrine will host a pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima on Oct. 20 and 21. A procession followed by recitation of the rosary and Mass will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 20.

More information about October’s calendar of events at the shrine can be found online at shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top