DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is normally the largest celebration of its kind outside of Mexico. The tradition draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to northwest suburban Des Plaines every December.
The shrine does remain open to visitors, but the grounds will close on both Dec. 11 and 12 as all celebrations go online.
"In good conscience, I couldn't continue to move forward with this, with the possibility of not being sure that I can the safe health and well-being of our pilgrims," said Father Esequiel Sanzhez, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Many believe in their faith to overcome difficult times. This includes a family united in prayer for their 19-year-old son, who was hospitalized in critical condition following a car accident.
"Our faith in La Virgencita, it's one of our most valuable thoughts, and I know she's going to help him. He's recovering. He's in intensive care unit right now, so we're praying for him," said Gilberto Guzman, worshipper.
Since the shrine is outdoors, there was initially hope that celebrations could continue in some limited form. As COVID-19 cases increased and with the Latinx community hit particularly hard, the archdiocese finally made the decision to cancel.
"For us, it's more than just a religious festival. A lot of people come with their heart and soul in their hand," Father Esequiel Sanzhez said.
"She's a miracle for everybody. If you believe in her, she's going to be with you all the time," said Gloria Martinez, worshipper.
The archdiocese encourages the faithful to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe's birthday at home. Both religious services and traditional Mananitas will be live streamed for people to view.