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Lorelei Savaryn reflects upon a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Champion during Advent.

Our Lady of Champion is located in the middle of Wisconsin dairyland, a set of buildings and curated grounds surrounded by cattle and fields. I grew up less than 30 minutes from there, the only approved Marian Apparition site in the USA. I don’t remember ever realizing this, though I must have driven past the signs on the roads when I was out on that side of town. On a recent visit to the Green Bay area, our family was finally able to visit this site for the very first time.  

I used to associate the word apparition with ghosts when I was a kid, and therefore the idea of a Marian apparition took on a strange, unsettling nature during my life before my Catholic conversion. I’ve since learned that many words that meant certain things to me as an evangelical: words like prayer, worship, veneration, and apparition, to name a few, have taken on new, more profound layers of meaning since becoming Catholic. For example, apparition doesn’t need to have anything to do with ghosts—it has to do with an appearance, and in the case of Marian apparitions, the appearance of the Mother of our Lord. 




The story of Champion, and Adele, and God’s call to her through Mary to teach children the faith, inspired our family during our visit. The oratory, a darkened below-ground space lit with the glow of hundreds of candles, drew us all into prayer. Even our 4-year-old wrote the letters she knew on a prayer card and left her intentions to the heart of God and Mary. Behind a large statue of Mary, there is a cabinet filled with relics from the apostles and many beloved saints. 




It felt particularly moving to visit this site for the very first time during Advent. Advent is a season of waiting and a season of hope. It leads us forward toward the moment when the light of heaven shot down to earth in the dazzling ray of our Savior being born, of God entering into humanity so that everyone could see Him and know Him, the author of our salvation.  

There are frequent moments in the story of the Christian faith where heaven breaks through and sends its light down to us. Many such occasions are recorded in the Bible: the angels appearing to the shepherds, the Transfiguration, Saul’s conversion, and more. Our visit to Our Lady of Champion reminded us all that heaven still breaks through into our world, rays of light piercing our everyday existence and reminding us of God and all he has done. Of the work he calls us to do. Of His abundant love for us all.  




As mothers, we are all called to teach our children the faith, just as Mary helps to teach us, just as Mary called Adele in the farmlands of Champion, Wisconsin over a century ago. As Christians, we are called to hope in something greater than ourselves. We are called to trust in the Love that came down, breaking through our darkness. And we are grateful for the ways that God still shows us his glory through the witness of the saints, through the sacraments, and through visitations from those in heaven, especially His immaculate Mother.  


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As mothers, we are all called to teach our children the faith, just as Mary helps to teach us. #CatholicMom

Let us draw near to the heart of Mary during this holy Advent season, and to listen to her guidance for our hearts and our lives, as we wait for the Savior to come. 



Copyright 2023 Lorelei Savaryn
Images: copyright 2023 Lorelei Savaryn, all rights reserved.