Hundreds turn out for 150th ‘Miracle of the Fire’ candlelight rosary procession

Event marks night when faithful sought refuge from Great Peshtigo Fire

A cross bearer, followed by a fourth degree Knights of Columbus honor guard, leads a procession around the rosary path at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on Oct. 8. The procession marked the 150th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Fire.” ( Sam Lucero | The Compass)

CHAMPION — Several hundred people took part in a candlelight rosary procession at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to mark the 150th anniversary of an event known today as the “Miracle of the Fire.”

The miracle that took place on Oct. 8, 1871 — almost 12 years to the date of Mary’s last appearance to Adele Brise — happened at the shrine grounds. While the Great Peshtigo Fire incinerated some 2,400 square miles and killed between 1,500 to 2,500 people, those who came to the shrine (then known as the Chapel) were spared.

In a story published last April in The Compass, Pat Kasten wrote, “Adele Brise and her companions at the Chapel knew they could not escape the fire. So they took up a statue of Mary and bore it in procession around the grounds. They were joined by local people fleeing to the site. Fr. (Peter) Pernin, in recording what Adele told him later, said they processed on their knees, praying the rosary.”

Since then, every year on Oct. 8, the shrine hosts an anniversary rosary and all-night prayer event beginning at 7 p.m. It starts with a remembrance service, where a retelling of the “Miracle of the Fire” is shared.

This year, Father of Mercy John Broussard recited the story, as told by Fr. Pernin. The Canadian missionary priest served as pastor at St. Mary Parish in Peshtigo and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Marinette. He lived through the fire and wrote a book entitled “The Finger of God Was There!” 

Following Fr. Broussard’s reading, a procession around the shrine grounds began from the shrine chapel, with the participants — many carrying rosaries — following behind a team of men carrying a statue of the Blessed Mother on a platform. 

The crowd made its way to the walking path behind the chapel, reciting the rosary, just as the faithful did 150 years ago. This year’s celebration included prayer intention candles, which lined the entire rosary walk. 

The evening also included all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and rosaries prayed each hour.

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