Pilgrims prepare for first Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration since Des Plaines shrine arson

Mark Rivera Image
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Thousands prepare for pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine
The annual celebration at Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines will return for the first time since it was vandalized by an arsonist in May.

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- As hundreds of thousands of pilgrims ready themselves for a trek by foot, horseback or car to a sanctified shrine next week, the memory of misfortune remains.

Seven months ago there was devastation in Des Plaines at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Its rector, Father Esequiel Sanchez, said an arsonist burned down the outdoor chapel and attempted to do the same to the image of Mary, which is sacred to Catholics in Latin America and around the world.

"It hurt a lot of people, but also primarily because it's a space people use for prayer when they come to visit," Father Sanchez said. "They're coming with their heart in their hand, and they're looking for that energy to change a moment of adversity to their advantage to say how can I get through this."

READ MORE | Des Plaines Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe damaged in apparent arson, person of interest custody

Father Sanchez said that adversity was turned into resilience and strength. The outdoor chapel, completely rebuilt, is set to be consecrated on Monday.

"Trauma stifles our growth," Father Sanchez said. "Only when you feel safe, when you feel protected, and you feel loved can the process of development can start again inside you."

The annual festivities are expected to draw more than 400,000 pilgrims to pay homage to a representation of the Virgin Mary, asking for her help.

"I'm glad that they were able to fix it," pilgrim Elizabeth Andrade said. "And unfortunately that event did happen but I feel like it brought the community together."

Dozens came to the shrine on Thursday, on their knees, offering flowers, lighting candles and shedding tears of thanks for prayers they say were answered.

"She helped me to get my baby," pilgrim Jessica Carrion said. "That's why she's here now. She is my miracle."

There will be foot paths designated on area streets, as well as shuttle buses to accommodate free offsite parking and discounts on hotel rooms for those staying the night.