The late-December “test week” offered a sample of changes in store for the shrine, added Tipps. “We’ve already scheduled over 25 bus groups” for spring and summer. Groups from Canada, New York and Louisiana are planning trips to the shrine, some flying into Green Bay and then chartering a bus; others, like a group from New Orleans, will travel exclusively by bus.

Although the shrine staff anticipates waves of pilgrims once the snow melts, one challenge facing them is limited space.

To learn more about the shrine, located about two hours north of Milwaukee, or the
Good Helpers Association, call
(920) 866-2571 or visit
the shrine’s Web site

“Like Fr. (John) Doerfler (shrine rector) keeps saying, ‘This is it. We have no room for anything else.’ There’s going to be an addition to the east and north side of the crypt (for access to the disabled) and that’s it. We have no more space,” she said.

Tipps said that the shrine’s new parking lot, built last fall to accommodate 75 cars, does not have space for buses. Instead, the shrine’s advisory board is looking into nearby locations for parking tour buses. St. Joseph Church and the Champion town hall, both about one mile west of the shrine, are possibilities, added Tipps.

The other shortfall is restrooms.

“We have one restroom on our site right now,” said Tipps. “This is a major need. So we’re going to be putting up a restroom facility between our house and the garage that will be in place for this summer.”

Other bathrooms will be installed when the shrine’s basement crypt is eventually remodeled for accessibility.

The shrine’s telephone and online access are also due for updates, said Tipps. With just one phone line to the gift shop and no Internet access except in the Tipps’ home, communications with the outside world is limited.

“We need more than one (telephone) in order to handle what’s going on out here,” said Tipps. “We need computers on site. Most of the work, such as answering e-mails, is done at night. So there’s a lot of things we have to get in place yet before this summer.”

Tipps acknowledged that neighbors are anxious about the shrine’s increased visibility. “What they are just hoping is that it stays a quiet farming community,” she said. “I think the fear is not wanting commercialization out here. That’s a goal of all of ours. There’s no reason why people can’t stay in Green Bay.”

According to Tipps, the diocese would like to have shrine tour groups stay in Green Bay and spend time visiting other religious sites such as St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and the National Shrine of St. Joseph at the Norberine Abbey in De Pere.

“That’s our goal: to keep it quiet and peaceful,” she added. “You don’t want the neighbors who are farmers to not be able to get farm equipment down the road. That is kind of a fear amongst the farming community.”

Tipps said her family – which also includes sons Allen and Simon and daughter Trinity – has had to adjust to changes at the shrine. “Our whole life is like upside down,” she said. “Only because there’s not time for anything else … and there won’t be until we get more people on board and trained.”

The shrine has several volunteers, but Tipps said an administrative assistant is needed to give her longer breaks.

Despite the workload, Tipps said, being part of the shrine’s historic changes has been a blessing.

“We love it here. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t,” she said.

Another change she hopes to see is more people joining the shrine’s Good Helpers Association.

“That’s something we started about three years ago,” Tipps said. Good Helpers offer financial contributions to the shrine to help oversee its maintenance. “We have two levels, the Patrons of Our Lady and the Society of Sr. Adele. Patrons contribute $25 or more a month while society members offer $10 monthly.

“We’re not a parish and we don’t have a parish support base,” said Tipps. “So we wanted to create a support base of people that want to see the shine grow into eternity.”