U.S. bishops to consult on the cause for Marian visionary Adele Brise

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Adele Brise
Rosaries grace the gravestone of Adele Brise on the grounds of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion in Champion, Wis. The Blessed Mother is believed to have appeared to Brise near the site in 1859. Brise's cause for canonization will be presented for consultation at the U.S. bishops' Spring Plenary Assembly in June. (OSV News photo/Sam Lucero)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (OSV News) — The U.S. bishops will soon hold a consultation on a petition to open the cause for canonization of Adele Brise, to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared in northeast Wisconsin in 1859.

Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken, who declared in 2010 that the apparitions to Brise were worthy of belief, will present the proposal during a consultation at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Spring Plenary Assembly June 12-14 in Louisville, Kentucky.

U.S. bishops to consider canonization of Adele Brise, who experienced Marian apparitions

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when the apparitions occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay. The first took place while she was walking to a gristmill to grind grain. The last two took place a few days later while she was walking on the way to and from Sunday Mass.

“Since being assigned to the Diocese of Green Bay, Adele’s life, her encounter with the Blessed Mother, and her lasting witness to the faith have always inspired me,” Bishop Ricken told OSV News. “However, two years ago, this prayerful consideration to open her cause began as a response to seeing people kneeling in front of Adele’s grave in prayer when I visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion.”

Bishop Ricken said the shrine’s staff told him that visitors to the shrine often pray at the grave, which rests near the Apparition Chapel and Oratory. The oratory is believed to be on the site where Brise saw the Blessed Mother.

“One of the most frequent questions visiting pilgrims would ask is whether Adele’s cause for sainthood had been started yet,” he said, adding that many share “how Adele has inspired them in their own walks of faith.”

The Blessed Mother’s message

According to historical accounts, the Blessed Mother’s message to Brise was twofold:

— “Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners.”

— “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation. Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross and how to approach the sacraments.”

Growing awareness and devotion

“As awareness and devotion surrounding the Marian apparitions in Champion grows, we have seen a natural curiosity into the life of the seer grow as well,” Bishop Ricken stated. “I have a deep respect for the process of investigating a cause, and I have confidence that heaven and the Church universal will reveal God’s will for Adele’s cause.”

Father Edward Looney, a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay and author of “The Story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Champion,” said that in many cases, “the recipient of a Marian apparition is advanced to sainthood. Though there are some that this was not the case.”

“It is not surprising to see a cause for Adele open because more and more people are becoming familiar with her life and story,” added Father Looney, a member of the Mariological Society of America. “She is a good candidate because she not only loved God from a young age, but she wholeheartedly devoted the rest of her life to fulfilling Mary’s request to gather the children and teach them. She was a woman of deep prayer and trusted in God at difficult moments, like the night of the (Peshtigo) fire or when funds were lacking. She relied on the help of Mary.”

The petition and postulator

According to Bishop Ricken, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion is serving as petitioner for Adele’s cause. A postulator, who has yet to be identified, also has been selected to work with the diocese and to assemble a formal petition.

“After my presentation at the plenary assembly in June, my brother bishops will immediately respond on whether they believe I should continue moving towards the opening of Adele’s cause,” said Bishop Ricken. “There are many steps along the path to canonization, and a diocesan investigation and Roman phase are needed before declaring her ‘venerable.’ There is no set timeline; it’s on God’s time.”

The 2007 Vatican document “Sanctorum Mater” requires the diocesan bishop promoting a sainthood cause to consult with the body of bishops on the advisability of pursuing the cause.

When a sainthood cause is officially opened, the candidate receives the title “servant of God.”

Path to canonization

The Church’s process leading to canonization involves three major steps. First is the declaration of a person’s heroic virtues, after which the church gives him or her the title Venerable. Second is beatification, after which he or she is called Blessed. The third step is canonization, or declaration of sainthood. In general, two miracles need to be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint, one for beatification and one for canonization.

According to the USCCB website, there are currently 11 American canonized saints; another four persons are beatified, while 13 have been given the title “Venerable.”

“While there is reason for great excitement and anticipation as we move forward in this process, we must also realize that an inquiry such as this will take time,” said Bishop Ricken. “Once opened, there will be years of investigation and inquiry into the life of Adele, her virtue and her reputation for holiness.”

Sam Lucero

Sam Lucero writes for OSV News from Wisconsin.