Wisconsin Boy's Family Claims He Was Cured of Leukemia After Praying to First Official U.S. Virgin Mary Shrine

Boy's family claims he was cured of leukemia after praying at Mary shrine.

July 11, 2011— -- Through the ages countless numbers have claimed to make supernatural contact with the Mother of God. You may have heard of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima. These religious epicenters draw millions of pilgrims every year -- many travel to these far-off destinations hoping for a miracle. But now for the first time, Americans can flock to a stateside shrine of their own, in Champion, Wis.

The Catholic Church recently approved the first apparition site in the United States in this tiny town near Green Bay, which has seen its share of Hail Mary passes.

This special place, just past the quaint symbols of Dairyland and the do-not-blink-or-you-will-miss-it-town of Champion, is a tiny underground chapel with a shrine surrounded by pasture.

"She definitely appeared here," said Green Bay resident Arlene Molzahn. "I have had so many prayers answered from her. It's not just because I'm praying, it's because I'm praying in a special place."

Though small, the shrine bears countless stories of reputed healings, some a century old and others very recent, such as that of 4-year-old Joe Anderson.

Born to a drug-addicted mother and adopted by the Andersons, who are devout Christians, Joe was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after his adoptive mother, Jennie Anderson, noticed some bruises on the child's body.

"It was a very, very aggressive form of it," Jennie Anderson told "Nightline" anchor Bill Weir. "So they gave him a 50-50 chance of survival at that point."

The family turned to faith to get Joe through his ordeal. "I know our faith in God kicked in and, yeah, it was bad, but we weren't going to throw in the towel. So the whole family moved into the hospital," Anderson said.

After months of chemotherapy, Joe's doctors considered a risky bone marrow transplant. That is when Joe's devout grandmother, Patty Nguyen, suggested the family take a trip to visit the little shrine in Champion.

Joe lit candles in the underground chapel, and the family prayed with its rosary.

"Jennie said to him, 'Joe, ask Jesus to make you get better,'" Ngyuen said. "So he looked up and said, 'Jesus, please make me get better.'"

The next day, Joe's physician called Anderson with news that she said left her flabbergasted.

"Dr. Brandt called me at home and said the leukemia was gone," Anderson said. "He had no leukemia, and this was last November."

However, Dr. Jon Brandt, a pediatric oncologist in Green Bay, remained skeptical and said he believed it was the medical treatment Joe received and the fact that his mother caught the signs of leukemia early that helped heal the little boy.

"I would point out in that obligation that we don't know that he's cured yet," Brandt said.

Still, the little boy's quick recovery is just one of the many phenomena people say have occurred because of praying at the shrine in Champion.

One wall of the underground chapel is lined with old canes and crutches left by those convinced they were healed with the help of the Holy Mother. But Champion's most famous miracle involved more than mended bones. It surrounded a natural disaster.

The Story of Adele Brise

The story of a poor pious immigrant named Adele Brise, who was nearly blind after lye splashed in her face, left Belgium with her parents and settled in the American wilderness, which is now Champion, more than 150 years ago.

One day, Brise reportedly saw visions of a woman with flowing blond hair who introduced herself as the queen of heaven and ordered Brise to teach salvation to the children. The actual spot where Brise heard these words was preserved in an underground chapel.

Several years later, the biggest wildfire in U.S. history swept through Wisconsin. As millions of acres were consumed and thousands of lives were lost, believers flocked to the tiny chapel to beg Mary for protection. And in their most desperate hour came pouring rain.

One written account says the people suddenly found themselves in a sea of emerald green surrounded by an ocean of ash, but their shrine and beloved chapel were completely untouched.

Champion residents more or less had the shrine to themselves until this past December, when the bishop of Green Bay made an unprecedented decision to put the Catholic stamp of approval on Brise's vision.

The bishop employed three independent investigators, called mariologists, to confirm the legitimacy of Brise's apparition. After going through an official church checklist -- Did Brise imagine this event? Could it have been linked to mental illness? -- they determined she was telling the truth. Since then, thousands more have flocked to the tiny chapel in hopes of a miracle, including the Andersons.

"We're absolutely convinced of it," Jennie Anderson said. "It's our faith in God, and that's what we believe."