There's never a shortage of people around the world claiming they've seen apparitions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. But did you know that for a brief time in 1859, Mary hung out in Wisconsin? Well, it's true.
On December 8, theologians from the Roman Catholic Church wrapped up a two-year investigation into the claim that the Virgin Mary paid Champion, Wisconsin a little visit way back in the 1800s. And, "with moral certainty," they concluded that it really did happen. The New York Times visited the Our Lady of Good Help chapel in Champion, which is now recognized as the first site in the US to have hosted the Virgin Mary. The paper has the backstory:
In 1859, the year after Mary is said to have appeared in Lourdes, a Belgian immigrant here named Adele Brise said she was visited three times by Mary, who hovered between two trees in a bright light, clothed in dazzling white with a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars above her flowing blond locks. As instructed, Ms. Brise devoted her life to teaching Catholic beliefs to children.
Normally, the Church investigates claims like these by examining the psychiatric records of those who claim the sightings. The Church also generally leaves the investigation up to the local Diocese. But since there are no psychiatric records for Ms. Brise, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay decided to wing it:
By all reports, [Ricken] said, Ms. Brise was humble and honest and faithfully carried out Mary's mandate to serve the church throughout her life. In one striking sign of a divine presence, he said, the shrine's grounds and the terrified crowd who gathered there were spared the flames of the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871, which devoured the surrounding lands and homes and caused more than 1,200 deaths. Her account of Mary's apparition and message was consistent with accepted cases.
So there you have it, future pilgrims. We advise you to plan a trip now, because the flood of visitors is gathering steam. And even with its new parking lot, the church only has 75 parking spaces. Hurry!