A small Wisconsin church has joined the short list of approved Roman Catholic sites where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared.
The shrine designation this month for Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., followed a two-year investigation by theologians of a case history dating to 1859.
Bishop David L. Ricken of the Green Bay Diocese declared “with moral certainty” that the Virgin Mary visited a Belgian immigrant, Adele Brise, on the site in 1859, when she began teaching Catholicism to children.
The Vatican gives local bishops authority to judge the credibility of Marian apparition claims.
“This is a gift to the believers,” the Rev. Johann Roten, an Ohio theologian, said of Ricken’s finding.
“It would be devious to say that this was somehow pulled out of the attic to exorcise the problems of the church today. But hopefully this will have a beneficial impact on the people, showing them that there are ways of living with faith that are very pure.”
Roten’s reference to problems was to clergy sexual abuse cases that have continued to bedevil the church, including in the Green Bay Diocese.