Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe welcoming thousands of pilgrims Monday in Des Plaines

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Thousands flock to Des Plaines to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe will welcome thousands pilgrims Monday as the celebration gets underway Monday afternoon in Des Plaines.

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving in Des Plaines to pray at a popular shrine.

The chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe will also be re-blessed after a devastating fire.

It's a long-standing tradition as people come in droves and flock to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.

They arrive on foot and by vehicle.

"She's the mother of all of us. The most important thing is she's the mother of Jesus," said Dalia Aguilar, pilgrim.

Some come because of those who came before them.

"Since I was a kid, my mom always encouraged me to believe in Our Lady of Guadalupe so I can get health and miracles so I always come and pray for me, my family and whole world," parishioner Saul Garcia said.

Others come for deep personal devotion and connection.

"About six to eight years ago, I was having a little bit of family health issues, very bad," Mae Jreisat said. "I needed a higher power, not a doctor... I came here it was snowy it was cold... I made a vow that each year I will come to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Believe it or not, she helped me so this is payment."

Known as the "Brown Virgin" and the "Empress of the Americas," the Virgen de Guadalupe is believed by the faithful to have first appeared in front of a recently converted Aztec man outside of Mexico City in 1531. This shrine, in Des Plaines, thousands of miles away, is meant to recreate the hilltop on which that first apparition took place. Her followers come with roses and candles to pay their respects and to ask for miracles big and small.

"My cousin has cancer, and he couldn't come today, and I came for him. To bring his flowers," said Gaby Garcia, pilgrim.

"It's been part of our culture since I was little. I was named after her. So we actually brought our newborn to her as well," said Guadalupe Martinez, pilgrim.

Some turn to the shrine in times of crisis or to show appreciation.

"More so gratitude, for everything I have prayed for and asked for of her and just praying for the family and everyone, friends family my loved ones," Martha said.

Others make the trip in remembrance of their loved ones.

"It is very powerful. As you see, I'm very emotional," said Flora Valadez of Wheeling. "I lost my mom and my grandma. I just came to, you know, thinking about them."

"Because I was remembering my father that passed away about six years ago, and I mean, I was just, I was overwhelmed," said Jose Torres.

But, this year's pilgrimage was threatened this past May, when a woman lit the outdoor chapel on fire, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. It took seven months to rebuild it. Monday night, the newly rebuilt structure will re-open to the public for the first time.

"Let's open our hearts to prepare for Christmas, but more importantly, open our hearts to be united as a family and pray for a better world," said Father Esequiel Sanchez.

The main celebrations begin Monday on the eve of what the faithful refer to as the Virgin's birthday on December 12. An 8 p.m. mass followed by 9:30 fireworks and an 11 p.m. rendition of Mexico's birthday song, "Las Mañanitas" will lead into an all-night vigil at the shrine.