Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe draws thousands to Des Plaines shrine

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Hundreds of thousands of Catholics are expected to make the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines beginning Wednesday.

Starting at 6 p.m. and continuing for 24 hours, there will be several Masses for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

All Masses with the exception of the one at midnight will be celebrated in the new St. Joseph Chapel, with the midnight Mass taking place at the outdoor plaza.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make the journey to the shrine every year on December 11 and 12 to celebrate the Virgin Mary. The celebration draws more than 1 million people every year, but as many as 300,000 will make the pilgrimage on this day, remembering the night they believe she appeared to a young boy in Mexico in 1531. Worshippers bring flowers and light candles in prayer to thank her.

The faithful braved the cold, some walking for miles and even arriving on their knees.

"We have a special needs son, so we always thank every year for every time that he is with us. For his health," said Fabiola Arzate.

The faithful offer candles and flowers to celebrate prayers answered, like that of Jaime Aguilera who, exactly one year ago, became a U.S. Citizen after 20 years in America. He said he's profoundly grateful.

Maria and Gabriel Hernandez were both at the shrine in November while she was having contractions before giving birth to her first child.

"I told the Virgin Mary, 'Please let me give birth,'" Maria said. "That's what she did.

With them Wednesday was two-week-old Jacob, happy and healthy. His parents are grateful.

"We obviously have a little blessing, but we want more, that's what we came. We're thankful," Maria said.

"All of the expressions of faith that you see is what's happening in the soul, so it's an incredibly beautiful, beautiful celebration" said Father Esequiel Sanchez, priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Father Sanchez believes the Virgin Mary saved him and 100 others when their plane crashed after takeoff in Durango, Mexico, last August.

"I always tell people God said to bring him up and the Blessed Mother said 'Wait, he works for me,'" Father Esequiel Sanchez said. "I thank God every day because I believe in miracles. I lived through one."

The Shrine at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines is the largest outside of the church and basilica in Mexico City where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared in 1531.
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