Thousands of pilgrims make way to Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines continues
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is welcoming thousands of pilgrims in Des Plaines as the celebration continues Tuesday.

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe kicked off at midnight in Des Plaines as the crowd watched fireworks and filed by the shrine.

It started late Monday night and continued into the overnight hours.

Many people brought offerings of candles, flowers, crosses and more.

"It's important in our culture, and growing up, I'm going to get emotional, growing up my dad used to take us to honor the Lady of Guadalupe," Alma Arreola said. "I wanted to do this to bring my family here and do this special day."

The biggest crowds came through during the overnight hours as thousands of pilgrims arrived on foot to bring in Dec. 12.

There has been a nonstop stream of people coming through all of Tuesday to wish the Virgen de Guadalupe a Happy Birthday on the official Feast Day.

"It's a tradition we do every year. We go to 9 o'clock mass, and then we come here, and this day is just to celebrate her," Maria Valdez said.

Traditional indigenous dances were staged on the plaza at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines on Tuesday morning. It was one of several performances throughout the day in her honor on one of the holiest days of the year for Mexican Catholics.

"I started coming here three years ago. I had difficult times and I made some, I prayed a lot and I made some promises. And, it's a big miracle. She does wonders," Yvette Castillo said.

And, while tens of thousands of pilgrims have come through the shrine over the past several days, many of them arriving on foot, Tuesday being the actual Feast Day meant nearly hourly rosaries were prayed at St. Joseph Chapel for the faithful to attend.

"It's a different type of feeling. You feel at peace with the world. It's just calm," Tina Quezada said.

"It's beautiful to be here. You feel a lot of blessings, a lot of calm. I don't know there is something protecting us right here," Martin Quezada said.

The Empress of the Americas, or the "Brown Virgin," as she is affectionately known, is Mexico's representation of the Virgin Mary, believed to have made her first appearance in 1531 in Mexico City. She is revered by her followers who turn to her in times of crisis. The Des Plaines shrine hosts the biggest gathering of its kind outside of Mexico.

"Where a lot of these folks come from, they miss the plaza concept. A place where everybody is welcome, and people are dancing, and people can talk, and politic, and meet friends and find resources. And so, more than anything, people just enjoy the plaza," said Father Esequiel Sanchez.

Jazmin Ramirez goes there every year with her family, but this year, she is praying not just for them, but for her new life and her brand new husband.

"For good in my marriage, ya, and for my parents to be good now that I am gone," Ramirez said.

This year's celebrations will come to a close following a 7 p.m. mass on Tuesday night. Church officials estimate up to a quarter of a million visitors will have come through by the time it's all over.