This is the only Marian apparition in the U.S. that has been approved by the Roman Catholic Church.
Adele Brise was born in Belgium in 1831 and emigrated to Wisconsin with her family to join a settlement of Belgian pioneers and settlers. In 1859, Adele saw a lady dressed in dazzling white, standing between two trees. She had a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars around her head. Her family suggested she was a soul in Purgatory asking for prayers.
After a second appearance, Adele spoke to her parish priest, who instructed her to ask, “In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?” When the lady appeared for a third time, Adele fell to her knees and asked and the lady replied, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.”
Adele began teaching children the Catholic faith by traveling on foot from house to house. Eventually, she was able to start a small school and form a chapter of Third Order Franciscans. Her father built a small wooden structure at the site of the apparitions and, later, a bigger wooden church was built and named Our Lady of Good Help.
On October 8, 1871, the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire burned through 1.2 million acres wildfire, killing between 1,200-2,400 people. It is still considered the most devastating fire in U.S. history. The chapel at the site of the apparitions is located about where the “b” in Tobinsville is on the map above.
People from the surrounding countryside fled to the Chapel where Sister Adele and the other Sisters were praying for Mary’s protection. Lifting the statue of Mary, those there that night processed around the sanctuary, praying the rosary and singing hymns to Jesus and the Blessed Mother. In the morning, rain came and extinguished the fire.
A local priest who wrote that the fire charred only the outside of the Shrine’s fence. The area surrounding the grounds was destroyed and the only livestock to survive were the cattle that farmers had brought inside the fence. To this day, many descendants of those who survived visit the Shrine for an all-night prayer vigil to mark the anniversary of the biggest of many miracles that God has granted at the Shrine.
Adele died on July 5, 1896, and is buried in the cemetery located near The Apparition Chapel on the grounds of the National Shrine. In 2010, the Bishop of Green Bay declared the apparitions “Worthy of Belief” and in 2016, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the grounds as a National Shrine.