CHAMPION, Wis. (WBAY) - The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help has broken ground on a new Prayer and Events Center.
The shrine is the only Marian shrine in the United States to have an approved apparition of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of people flock to the site each year.
Visitor attendance has grown tenfold over the past 10 years.
"Since 2008, the number of people coming has increased dramatically going from about 10,000 pilgrims each year to now about 150,000 or 160,000," says Bishop David Ricken.
The new Prayer and Events center will allow the shrine to welcome more people.
"It continues to show that the shrine continues to grow in it's recognition throughout the world about the significance of what this place represents," says Troy Streckenbach, Brown County Executive.
The current number of visitors exceeds the shrine's capacity. The new center will allow them to seat four times the people.
"The main thing it does is it has an assembly area which will seat up to 1200 people, and it's got a sanctuary built into it, too. So, right now our current chapel seats up to about 300," says Don Warden, Chief Operations Officer.
It also features an exam room for pilgrims who need healing.
The $3 million addition is funded by the shrine and pilgrim donations.
It's the beginning of long-range plan for the shrine.
"We're all kind of in that stage where we want to respond to the need, but we don't want to get too far ahead of things, either," Ricken says.
Construction is expected to be complete by spring 2019.
"Where the shrine goes is completely up to our Blessed Mother and we just have to pay attention, pray, and discern exactly what those steps are," Warden says.
The shrine is located at 4047 Chapel Rd. in Champion.