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Wisconsin may be the most notably Catholic state out of all 50, as it’s the only state the Blessed Virgin Mary visited in a Church-approved apparition.
Besides this, about 25% of Wisconsin residents are Catholic, so it’s no surprise that the Badger State has a wealth of beautiful and holy Catholic sites to visit.
If you’re a Wisconsinite planning a pilgrimage, or a newcomer to the state and looking to visit a special Catholic site, check out these five Catholic sites not to miss in Wisconsin.
Our Lady of Champion National Shrine, Champion
Of course, the top place to visit in Wisconsin is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, the peaceful, sacred grounds where the Blessed Mother appeared to Adele Brise in 1859. You can visit the history center on the grounds and have lunch at the cafe.
While the chapel is fairly modest, the site is a wonderful place to pray, walk the grounds, and enjoy conversation with Jesus and his Blessed Mother. Visitors come from all over the world to see this unique sacred site, and my family enjoys attending Mass, praying the Rosary, and often having a picnic on the grounds when we visit Wisconsin.
Holy Hill, Hubertus
Located on 435 acres of glorious scenery on the highest elevation in Southeastern Wisconsin, Holy Hill is a sacred place of peace, beauty and prayer under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars.
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I fondly remember pilgrimages and camping trips at Holy Hill, formally known as the Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. You can’t help but be awed at this sacred site’s gorgeous basilica and scenic views.
The Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians is open to the public and draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and sightseers every year. Besides the basilica, the site includes life-sized Stations of the Cross, a café and a gift store.
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse
A relatively recent addition to our list (ground was first broken for the shrine in 2001), the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a place of ceaseless prayer dedicated to the continuing work of evangelization.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the site annually. They can attend Mass at the beautiful shrine church, pray at the outdoor Rosary Walk and Stations of the Cross, and have lunch at the restaurant. Nearby lodgings include hotels and campsites.
Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee
In the Catholic Church, basilica status is reserved for the largest, most beautiful, and most historically important churches, and this certainly fits St. Josaphat. Modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Josaphat Church was named the third basilica in the United States in 1929. At the time, its dome was the second largest in the nation after the U.S. Capitol!
Amazingly enough, this masterpiece of church architecture was constructed partly with salvaged materials from the old Chicago Post Office. The basilica is in the care of the Conventual Franciscan Friars and has a large collection of relics you won’t want to miss.
This magnificent church is a witness to the faith and devotion of the Polish-American community in turn-of-the-century Milwaukee.
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay
Consecrated in 1881 after five years of construction, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Wisconsin. King Ludwig I of Bavaria was among those who donated funds for its construction.
Bishop Francis Xavier Krautbauer, the second Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, oversaw its construction. Its architecture is modeled on the Ludwigkirche in Munich, Germany, where Krautbauer had served as pastor before immigrating to the United States. He is interred in the cathedral.
The cathedral is known for its vast murals, which are stunning and well worth a visit for art lovers.
August Derleth marker and grave, Sauk Prairie
Who is August Derleth, you ask? You may not know this author’s name, but you have likely read one of his books. Derleth’s biographies of Fr. Jacques Marquette and St. Ignatius are still read by young people today. This prolific author also wrote several novels and works of non-fiction set in his native Wisconsin, along with the Solar Pons stories — a popular pastiche of Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
But Derleth may be best remembered as the man who preserved the legacy of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Derleth, a Catholic, became a correspondent of Lovecraft’s in his youth. After Lovecraft’s death, Derleth founded Arkham House Publishers to gather together and publish these modern classics, along with many other important works of genre fiction. If you are a Catholic fan of horror, you will want to track down the Wisconsin Historical Society marker in Derleth’s hometown of Sauk Prairie, and perhaps stop by his grave in St. Aloysius Cemetery to say a prayer for this fascinating literary figure.