Our Lady of Champion, Our Lady's apparition in the United States

The only apparition approved by the Church in the United States took place in Wisconsin in the 19th century. Since then, many faithful come to the Champion area to receive the graces of the Virgin Mary.

Paloma López Campos-October 8, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes
Our Lady of Champion

Marian Procession of the Faithful (Copyright: Our Lady of Champion)

In the middle of the 19th century, the Virgin Mary appeared to a Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise. At that time, the story of Our Lady of Champion began to unfold. Adele had moved to United States with her parents and had wanted to dedicate herself to the education of children for years.

One day while walking she met a woman dressed in white. During this encounter no words were exchanged, but Adele was frightened. After talking to her parents, she came to the conclusion that a soul in pain had appeared to her.

A few days later, on her way to Mass with her sister and a friend, she saw the apparition again. Her companions did not perceive anything and Adele consulted with a priest, trying to understand what was happening. The priest suggested that she try to talk to the woman if she saw her again.

After the celebration of Mass, Adele met the apparition again. Following the priest's advice, Adele asked, "In the name of God, who are you and what do you desire of me?" The woman dressed in white replied, "I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I desire that you do the same." In addition, she gave the visionary another mission: "Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they must know to be saved".

Adele Brise obeyed the Virgin Mary and fulfilled her commission. She dedicated the rest of her life to the education of the little ones. At first, she traveled on foot through the villages and offered to educate the children of the people who lived in the territory. Later, together with other women, she opened a school. She also formed a community of the Third Order of St. Francis, although she never took vows as a nun.

Adele died on July 5, 1986. Devotion to the Virgin Mary spread and the visionary's father built the first shrine. The current building was erected in 1942 and the U.S. bishops' conference named it a national shrine on August 15, 2016.

To learn more about the history, Marian customs in Wisconsin and devotion to Our Lady, Omnes interviewed Chelsey Hare, director of communications for the sanctuary.

What can you tell us about the seer Adele Brise?

– Adele Brise was a Belgian immigrant woman who lived a cheerful and faithful life. As a young girl in Belgium, Adele made a promise to serve the Blessed Mother alongside the sisters who helped her receive her First Communion – in a place called Champion, Belgium.

This promise felt unattainable when her family decided to immigrate to America. She and her family settled near the Bay of Green Bay in Wisconsin, and life was devoted to taking care of the family’s survival.

As Adele was walking along a trail in the woods, she encountered the Queen of Heaven amidst the trees. Three times, Our Lady appeared to her, and on her final apparition, She shared a message to Adele, asking that Adele gather and teach the children what they should know for Salvation – their catechism, how to sign themselves with the cross, and how to approach the sacraments.

This promise that Adele made as a young girl in Belgium was fulfilled in America. While Adele promised to serve the people in Champion Belgium, Our Lady appeared and asked that she serve in Champion, Wisconsin – truly showing us all that our vocation can be lived out wherever we are.

How is the feast celebrated at the shrine of Our Lady of Champion?

– The Solemnity of Our Lady of Champion will be celebrated on the grounds of the National Shrine every October 9th, which is the anniversary day of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s second and third apparitions to Adele Brise.

The Solemnity Day invites the faithful from around the country and world to participate in honoring the “Queen of Heaven” who appeared in Champion, Wisconsin. Bishops and priests gather to celebrate the Mass, and pilgrims have the opportunity to visit the Apparition Chapel and Oratory to ask for Our Blessed Mother’s loving intercession.

Mass is celebrated by the Bishop of the Green Bay Diocese - where the Shrine is located. The current Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Bishop David L. Ricken, is the one who approved the Apparitions as “Worthy of Belief” by the authority of the Catholic Church.

Central altar of the sanctuary (Copyright: National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion)

What does it imply that this is the only apparition of Our Lady accepted by the Church to this day?

– The National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion preserves the holy ground of the first and only church-approved Marian Apparition in the United States. It is a sanctuary for those seeking comfort, healing, and peace within their everyday lives.

There are many beautiful Marian Apparition sites around the world – from Guadalupe, to Lourdes, to Knock. To have one specifically in the heart of the Midwest is an invitation for the faithful of the United States (and the world) to go on pilgrimage to this holy place and encounter the beauty of Our Lady and, ultimately, the love of Our Lord.

What process had to be followed to obtain the Church's approval?

– The duty of approving apparitions rests on the Bishop of the diocese in which the apparition occurred. The Most Reverend David L. Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, opened a formal Church investigation into the Marian apparitions that occurred in 1859 on the site of the Shrine. The commission reviewed historical information on the apparitions, the life of Adele, as well as its consistency with Public Revelation as guarded by the Catholic Church. In December of 2010, the apparitions were approved as worthy of belief by Bishop Ricken.

How is devotion to Our Lady lived in Wisconsin?

– Wisconsin has a beautiful devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The state is home to three well-known and beautiful shrines dedicated to the Blessed Mother – the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse; the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians just outside of Milwaukee; and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion in Champion.

In addition to beautiful pilgrimage sites in the state, every year, thousands of walking pilgrims visit Wisconsin to participate in the annual Walk to Mary. This 21-mile pilgrimage begins at the National Shrine of St. Joseph and ends at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion. This past year, over 7,500 pilgrims were on the grounds of the Champion Shrine for the event. It is an inspiring example of the devotion to Our Lady.

How to help people distinguish between genuine devotion and mere superstition?

– Many people come to the Shrine to seek healing – physical or spiritual. Whether a miracle does happen or doesn’t in the way they hope at that time, pilgrims leave with the interior peace that encourages them to continue on, or the grace of forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The conversion of a soul is the biggest miracle that can happen.

We encourage all pilgrims to come to the Shrine with a prayer or intention in their hearts and to have open hands to what the Lord’s will is. Our Blessed Mother does the will of the Father perfectly, and her prayers will always assist us in the ultimate goal – union with Christ.

Have there been miracles of Our Lady of Champion and can you tell us about them?

– While the Shrine has heard many reports of graces received from pilgrims coming to the grounds, none have been officially investigated and declared miracles by the Church. Some of these graces-received stories can be found at

Chapel of the Apparition (Copyright: National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion)
La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.
Banner advertising
Banner advertising