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Eucharistic congress pilgrims to visit beautiful, renovated chapel at Marian apparition site

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., anoints the altar with sacred chrism during the altar dedication at the National Shrine of Our Lady Champion's Apparition Chapel in Champion March 2, 2024. Updates to the chapel took place just months before the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage visits the shrine in June. (OSV News photo/Sam Lucero)

By Sam Lucero

CHAMPION, Wis. (OSV News) — When Catholics participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, they will be treated to a newly renovated Apparition Chapel.

The two-month pilgrimage makes a weeklong stop in the Diocese of Green Bay June 12-19 as part of the event’s Marian Route, one of four routes that groups of pilgrims, starting May 18-19, will primarily walk to Indianapolis arriving a day before the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress.

The highlight of the stop will be a visit to the national shrine in Champion, where the Blessed Mother is believed to have appeared to Adele Brise in 1859.

The shrine’s current Apparition Chapel, built in 1942, underwent major updates in January and February. The renovations included replacing the original vinyl tile flooring with ceramic tile, cleaning and restaining the pews, installing a new sound system, and constructing a new ambo, Communion rail, credence table and front altar.

On March 2, Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken celebrated the chapel’s renovation by conducting a rite of dedication of the altar.

The new altar was made of wood and designed to match the back altar. It replaced a brown and white marble altar.

“There was a conscious desire for simplicity (in the renovation) so that the focus of the Mass and other devotions can remain on the two pillars of the Eucharist and Mary,” Don Warden, the shrine’s chief operations officer, explained.

“Now we have a brand new altar to consecrate and everything is returning to a beautiful simplicity,” Bishop Ricken said before consecrating the new altar.

The Apparition Chapel’s sanctuary is located above the lower level Apparition Oratory. This is believed to be where Adele Brise saw the Blessed Mother. The current chapel is actually the fourth chapel erected on the grounds. The original chapel was built in 1859 by Adele’s father, Lambert Brise, and measured only 10 feet by 12 feet.

Since Our Lady of Champion is the patroness for the Marian Route, “we are expecting a large number of pilgrims who will be joining us” for festivities, said Chelsey Hare, the shrine’s communications director. The highlight will be Mass celebrated by Bishop Ricken on Sunday, June 16, at 2 p.m., followed by a 1.7 mile Eucharistic rosary procession around the shrine grounds.

According to Maria Benes, coordinator of the Marian Route for Modern Catholic Pilgrimage, which is planning the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, the Marian Route begins in Bemidji, Minnesota, in the Diocese of Crookston May 17.

“Perpetual Pilgrims” consisting of six lay young adults, two seminarians and priest-chaplains will walk the entire Marian Route, which concludes with the 10th National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21 in Indianapolis.

“The shrine is very glad to be part of the Eucharistic pilgrimage and we will be meeting with the perpetual walking pilgrims for the northern route to share the story of Our Lady of Champion and Adele,” said Hare, “and to really allow Our Lady of Champion to be in their hearts as they walk with Jesus from the headwaters of the Mississippi to Indianapolis.”

While in the Diocese of Green Bay, the perpetual pilgrims will visit numerous sites for prayer and adoration, including St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay and Camp Tekakwitha, the diocesan-run summer camp for youth near Shawano.

Benes said the entire Marian Route can be viewed online at eucharisticpilgrimage.org/marian-route.

Prior to Mass at the shrine June 16, the perpetual pilgrims will walk from the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Bay Settlement to the shrine. The Franciscan sisters operated ministries for children and young women on the shrine grounds for 90 years.

“It’s just an honor to be able to host the (pilgrimage) that’s going clear across the country to Indianapolis” for the National Eucharistic Congress, Bishop Ricken said following the chapel’s altar dedication. “Just to be able to walk here in the footsteps of Adele and carry the Eucharist there, which we are going to do that day as part of that procession, it’s going to be a great gift.”

Bishop Ricken added that when the Marian Route concludes its time in the Diocese of Green Bay June 19, he will celebrate Mass with Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Kiel, Wisconsin.

Warden said that the shrine’s role in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is a blessing.

“St. John Bosco talked about his dream being the two pillars, the Eucharist and Mary,” he said. “I think everybody sees Mary just gathering more and more people in very different and special ways here because she wants to lead us back to her son. I think she is preparing us for the things that we probably lost our way on. We’ve got a lot of challenges in our world and in our country and in the church in general. I think people — the locals here and the pilgrims that visit — see Our Lady’s hand in helping gather her children and bring them back.”

Benes, the Marian Route coordinator, called the event “the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”

“It’s so beautiful to be a part of the Eucharistic Revival,” she said. “I also know this is going to be really healing for our nation in an election year. It really is quite unprecedented.”

Sam Lucero writes for OSV News from Wisconsin.

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