On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2010, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help located about sixteen miles northeast of Green Bay, Bishop David Ricken endorsed our country’s first Church-approved Marian apparition:
“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”
155 years ago, a lovely blond-haired lady clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars around her head, appeared to a 28-year-old lay woman named Adele Brise. Adele asked the lady who she was and what she wanted. She answered, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners… Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation…”
This was the core of Mary’s message: for sinners to be converted and for children to be catechised. Yet Adele hesitated and asked how she was to teach the young when she knew so little herself. Mary replied, “Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.” After Adele’s encounter, her father built a small chapel on the site and Adele went about fulfilling her entrusted mission for the rest of her life. Exactly twelve years after Mary’s message came the terrible Peshtigo Fire which still ranks as the worst fire disaster in U.S. history. By a miracle, all who fled to Mary’s shrine for refuge were saved.
Our Mother, the Church, teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children in the Faith. This means that whether our kids go to CCD or Catholic school, family is the first and foremost teacher of life’s most important lessons. But how often do we talk to our children about Jesus and Mary, or teach them about what they should know for salvation? I suspect that many feel intimidated like Adele Brise was because they think they know too little. Yet Mary reassures us that anyone can begin teaching children the simple, precious lessons that will stay with them and bless them forever. As our children grow, we also must grow in the Faith, exploring the what’s and why’s of the Church’s teachings and living them out in our lives. Catechesis without conversion is in vain.
The Virgin Mary’s message to Adele Brise remains timely for us today: “Pray for the conversion of sinners… Offer Communion for the conversion of sinners… Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation… Go and fear nothing, I will help you.”