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The Story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Champion: book review

No matter the time and place of Marian apparitions, her devotees observe a common theme: Mother Mary comes to the humble (whether children or those who count for little in the world) with messages to pray and offer sacrifices.

The apparitions of Our Lady of Champion, Wisconsin, the first of its kind (endorsed by the both the local bishop and universal church) in the United States, echoed the theme of Mother Mary’s other appearances.

In The Story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Champion, Fr. Edward Looney tells the story of Adele Brise’s life across 16 two-page spreads, with expressive and accessible text and illustrations by Ayan Mansoori. The addendum to the book contains questions about the visionary’s life, her encounter with Our Lady, and the miracle that follows.

Serving since 2015 as a pastor in the Diocese of Green Bay, where the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion is located, Father Looney is an ideal ambassador to spread the message of Our Lady’s only approved appearance in the United States. Although this apparition is little-known among Catholics, this book and recent events (such as the Shrine celebrating its Inaugural Solemnity on Oct. 9th on the anniversary of the apparition and miracle) will surely increase its fame.

Father Looney narrates Adele Brise’s life through her own voice and point of view, from her first Holy Communion to her family’s immigration to the United States from Belgium to the mission Our Lady entrusted to her.

Among Our Lady’s messages to Adele in Robinsonville (now Champion), Wisconsin on Sunday, October 9, 1859, Mary reminded her of the promise she made to Our Lady at her First Holy Communion years before in Belgium: Adele’s promise that she would work as a teacher and consecrate herself as a sister.

Though Adele had barely a third-grade education and was blind in one eye, Mother told her to gather the children and teach them about Jesus; she also gave Adele the mission to pray for everyone that they might know and love Jesus. Mary promised to help Adele with these tasks and not to fear. Reading the book will reveal more details about Our Lady’s appearance and Adele Brise’s life.

No matter the time and place of Mary’s many worldwide appearances, another common theme among them is a miracle attributed to Our Lady. Exactly 12 years after the Blessed Mother appeared to Sister Adele, a fire broke out in the lumber community of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, about 50 miles northwest of Champion. The wind spread the fire across the waters of Green Bay to the settlement where Sister Adele and her schoolchildren and sisters lived.

As the fire neared, the local community came to the chapel built in honor of Mary’s appearance and processed around the property asking for Mary’s help. The following day, rain came and quenched the fire. Though everything for miles around the chapel’s property burned, the flames never touched the land where Mary appeared.

While this book is for children, I found it an informative read for adults about the Marian apparition and miracle in our very own country. The history of the Belgian settlement in northeast Wisconsin is a bonus to this story.

In the final pages of The Story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Champion, Father Looney conveys the heart of the message of this and other Marian apparitions: to witness to our faith. This call is not just for Sister Adele Brise in another time and place, but it includes us as well here and now.

Our Lady of Champion, pray for us!

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Cover photo reprinted with permission from Our Lady of Champion Shrine.

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