DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on Dec. 12, but the pilgrimages to the shrine in Des Plaines began last week, with the crowds building steadily, as they will continue to before reaching a crescendo on Monday night into Tuesday.
If you build it, they will come. Perhaps nowhere does that line ring truer than at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.
"It unites us. We have a moment to praise her, and I think it's special," said Fernanda Ramirez.
It is a place deemed so special that since its inception, it has steadily attracted more and more pilgrims each year.
"She's someone who we value as a mother. And, we see her as someone who is a miracle to us. Like, she's bringing so much light to us, so much happiness to our family, so she means a lot to us," said Carol Sanchez.
Most of them are of Mexican heritage, and they are coming to pay their respects to their "Brown Virgin" during what is believed to be the month she made her first appearances in front of an Aztec man in 1531 in Mexico City.
"It's a tradition we've been carrying on since I was born, and it's something that I want to pass along to my son," said Araceli Pedroza.
She is of such importance that it is often the Virgin of Guadalupe that Mexicans will turn to first in times of crisis. Francisco and his daughter are praying for the health of a niece in Mexico who suffered a devastating accident just a few days ago.
"She's in the hospital right now. We're praying for a miracle, because I want to see her," said April Ramirez.
The shrine itself is in the midst of a rebirth of sorts. It was just this past May when a woman lit fire to the outdoor chapel, devastating those who have poured their heart and soul into creating this place of worship. It has taken seven months of work to bring it back from the literal ashes.
"Tomorrow, we're going to consecrate, we're going to re-bless the renovated chapel. It's a brand new chapel. It's ready to receive people. The bishop will be here tomorrow and we'll bless the new chapel for the community," said Father Esequiel Sanchez.
Celebrations there will officially kick off on Monday at noon with a rosary and continue into Tuesday night with more than 200,000 people expected to visit the shrine.