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Video: 500 faithful join Walk to Mary

9:32 AM, May 5, 2013  |  Comments
500 faithful join 21-mile Walk To Mary
500 faithful join 21-mile Walk To Mary: Saturday, May 4: About 500 people took part in the first Walk To Mary in Brown County. The 21-mile walk followed a route from the National Shrine of St. Joseph at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion.
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DE PERE - The muffled sound of shoes moving along the tarmac in De Pere announced the passing of several hundred walkers participating in the 21-mile Walk to Mary Saturday in Brown County.

The walk took pilgrims from the National Shrine of St. Joseph located at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion. For many, the event was a chance to get closer with their Catholic faith, while also calling attention to Catholic education for children.

"I believe it's going to help build my faith," said Jerry DeGroot of Bellevue, one of the pilgrims. "It's good to pray to Mary, she helps a lot of people through prayer."

This was his first time attempting a walk of 20-plus miles.

"I have a Rosary with me and I'm going to pray to Mary," DeGroot said. "If I get sore feet, I'm going to pray and hope that I can make the whole trip. But if not, at least I tried."

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the first shrine in the United States acknowledged as a site of Virgin Mary apparitions.

According to the diocese, the Virgin Mary appeared in the area to Belgian immigrant Adele Brise three times in 1859.

Brise's account states the apparition appeared in dazzling white claiming to be the "Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners" and asking Brise to also pray for sinners and teach children about salvation. Brise's family built a chapel at the site of the apparitions.

An 1871 fire devastated the surrounding area but spared the chapel, Franciscan convent and school.

Debbie Herbst of Appleton did the walk with the support of sisters Kathy Kleckner of Appleton and Therese Schafer of Batavia, Ill. Herbst's son from Utah was also providing verbal support.

"I told my sister I'd be praying long and hard, she's having kidney rejection. Five out of eight of us (siblings) have had kidney transplants, walking is good for our health, but there's physical and spiritual health," she said. "I have my Rosary and I don't think we can pray too much."

Herbst had a kidney transplant nine years ago.

"There are a lot of need, and where I am in my life, I pray for others and thank God for my blessings," she said. "With the grace of God and technology, I am alive and well and physically able to do this."

Event Director Pat Deprey said he was pleased with Saturday's turnout - about 500 people -and expects participation to grow in coming years.

"I think it's really going to catch on and become something big in the future," he said. "I'm hoping people will get deeper in their faith and closer to God and really help with children... I hope people will grow and do something as a result of this experience."

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