In 1859, a Wisconsin farmwoman recounted three mystical meetings with the Virgin Mary, who told her to pray for the conversion of sinners and teach children the Catholic faith.
On Dec. 8, the Bishop of Green Bay finally sanctioned Adele Brise's visions as both supernatural and “worthy of belief.” It was the first officially approved Marian apparition (the Catholic Church's term for paranormal appearances by Mary) in the United States.
Of the many questions kindled by Bishop David Ricken's announcement, two seemed particularly keen: How does the church investigate mystical visions? And why does it take so long to approve them?
Brise was 28, partially blind, and far from her native Belgium when she reported speaking with a woman wearing a brilliant white gown and starry crown who seemed to float above the fields.
The vision called herself “the Queen of Heaven,” and gave Brise a mission. “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”
For the rest of her life, Brise did just that, trudging across the untamed frontier to catechize children, build a school, and found an order of Franciscan sisters.