History Chapters 1 and 2
To the Lord I cry aloud and He answers me from His Holy Hill
Throughout sacred history, mountains and hills have held great significance as places of encounters with God. To test his faith, Yahweh commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah - a sacrifice Yahweh spared Abraham. On Mt. Horeb, Moses saw a burning bush and from it heard the voice of the Lord. It was there that he received his commission as deliverer of the Hebrew people. Later in sacred history, Moses was called by the Holy Spirit to Mt. Sinai where he received the tablets of testimony (law) written by the finger of God. Mt. Carmel was the site where Elijah was fed by an angel of the Lord. Both Elijah and Moses appeared with the Lord Jesus Christ on a mountain when he was transfigured and glorified before the eyes of Peter, James and John.
The Lord often calls His followers to come to a high place for prayer. Jesus frequently prayed on the Mount of Olives. So it is that many pilgrims, as if to follow in His footsteps, have come to climb the steep path through the woods to the top of Holy Hill. They have come broken in body and broken in spirit. They have cried out to the Lord and he has answered them from His Holy Hill. It is an echo to the psalmist prayer quoted above. It is my testimony and that of the thousands who come here to pray each year.
Healings occur when and wherever the Lord is encountered. Some healings are gradual while others are dramatic and instant. Even before the building of the first log chapel, pilgrims left crutches, leg braces and canes at Holy Hill as witness to answered prayer. This practice continues today by pilgrims who believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has healed them through the powerful intercessory prayer of Mary His mother.
Visitors come to Holy Hill for a variety of reasons. Many ethnic groups continue a tradition of yearly pilgrimages that can be traced to Holy Hill's earliest beginnings. Others come as sightseers or hikers. Families frequently come to participate in Sunday liturgy and remain to picnic on the wooded grounds.
Holy Hill is an easy drive from several urban and suburban areas and yet is very isolated (especially in winter). This makes it an ideal place for a private or group retreat. If making an overnight retreat is not possible, just to come and spend the day at rest in the presence of the Lord can be a very healing experience. One lone pilgrim came to Holy Hill and remained as a hermit for many years. Our history begins with his story.
The Hermit of Holy Hill
Francois Soubrio, a native of France, was known as the hermit of Holy Hill. A local farmer discovered his presence sometime between 1862 and 1864.' After a time of mutual suspicion between Soubrio and the area farmers, a friendship developed as the result of growing openness between them. The farmers then began to assist Soubrio by giving him food and other necessities. Eventually they banded together to build a small cabin for him.
There are two accounts about Soubrio's mysterious presence at Holy Hill. In the older account (1889), a narrative written about Holy Hill by W. A. Armstrong, the hermit is said to have come in penance for the murder of someone he loved. Armstrong's narrative also says that the hermit was miraculously healed of a partial paralysis after spending the night in prayer on the hill's summit. In J. M. LeCount's history of Holy Hill he is described as a religious eccentric. Although the accounts differ in their opinion of Soubrio's personality, both accounts agree that he was a man of great inner pain who sought comfort in God.
Before coming to Holy Hill, Soubrio traveled extensively. His travels eventually brought him to Quebec, Canada, where he worked as an assistant to a retired professor. While working in the professor's library, Soubrio found an old French diary and a parchment map (dated 1676). The map showed the Wisconsin - Lake Michigan area and the route used to reach a very high cone-shaped hill in southeastern Wisconsin. Soubrio's attention was drawn to the entry in which the author described his journey to the hill's summit where he erected a stone altar, raised a cross (margin notes on the map indicated a cross) and dedicated the place in the name of Mary as holy ground forever. Studying these documents created a deep longing within Soubrio to come to the holy site. Many assumed the documents belonged to Fr. Jacques Marquette.