Small Towns: Catholic shrine in Champion draws visitors from around the world

Recognized as only Marion apparition site in U.S.

CHAMPION, Wis. - It's time to go small town hopping once again. Every Tuesday NBC26 brings you with us to explore the sights across northeast Wisconsin that you may not have heard of. Tonight NBC26 brings you to a one of a kind place of worship, that anyone can find solace in.

About 20 miles northeast of Green Bay is Champion, Wisconsin. The town of Champion is a place known by many as the home of a small church, sitting on 40 acre plot of land, known as The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

"For a lot of local people that come, it's a very special place," says Father John Broussard who calls the Champion home.

But calling this a place of worship would be an understatement to many.

"In 1859 our blessed mother, who we believe is the mother of Christ, she appeared to a young Belgian woman immigrant, who was out here," adds Father Broussard.

This is one of just 17 sites across the world, where Catholics believe an apparition, or the appearance of something remarkable, occurred.

"I enjoy going down in the crypt because you get a special feeling down there. I can't explain it to you, but you don't want to leave," adds Dan Drossart a tour guide and greeter of the shrine.

Drossart who grew up in Green Bay has been coming here since he was a boy. His grandmother started coming to the shrine first, followed by his parents, and eventually himself who is present at the shrine several days a week.

“I kept coming here all my life," says Drossart with a smile.

Well before the place of worship was officially a shrine, and well before everyone else discovered how unique it was to have in northeast Wisconsin, Dan knew.

"They wanted this simple shrine and we've been able to keep it that way and because it's simple like that, people are coming from all over now since it's become a national shrine," adds Drossart.

Ever since 2010 when the Catholic church recognized the sight as a one of a kind destination to the United States, people have been flocking to Champion.

"It's actually the only approved Marian apparition sight in the United States," says Father Broussard.

Over the last seven years the quaint church has become a pilgrimage destination for nearly 130,000 people a year.

"You have some other major places like Fatima, Portugal and Lourdes, France and other places like that. But for us here in the United States, right now, it's the only approved one so it's very special for a lot of people," adds Father Broussard.

Not everyone will go to the shrine to reflect on the same things in fact Father Broussard says many who show up to visit aren’t even from a same religion.

"Even non-Catholics who come here… they say they experience an incredible peace and incredible joy," says Father Broussard.

At the shrine everyone is welcome and most will likely leave with something more, than what they came with.

"They come out of there with a peace and comfort that they can't explain," says Drossart.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is open to the public daily from 7 am until 7 pm. It’s interesting to note that locals have considered it a holy site of sorts since Mary, the mother of Jesus as many believe, was said to have been seen there back in 1859.

 

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