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Partners in Pilgrimage

Tens of thousands of people will travel on Dec. 12 to the Maryville Academy campus on River Road in Des Plaines for the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Hispanic Catholics celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, when they pay their respects to the Virgin Mary for the blessings they have received. Every year, millions of Catholics gather locally and globally for the Lady of Guadalupe feast. “This celebration means a lot to me and my family. We do this to show our devotion to Mary and to show our gratitude for the favors we get from her,” junior Gemma Fierro said. “It’s an amazing feeling knowing that everyone there is praying for happiness in their lives. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something big. And what’s also amazing is that a lot of people from far away comes to this shrine. It’s nice to see people so dedicated to Guadalupe; it makes the whole ceremony purer.”

The ceremony dates back to 1531 when the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego. “A feast day represents something personal for us Catholics,” junior Jessica Garibay said. “[Our Lady of Guadalupe] represents love and compassion, and this is the day where we celebrate that.”

Among the thousands of people going to the Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Des Plaines, people may pray with and for their friends or family.

“I always go with my family to the shrine, but it can be fun to go with friends too. It’s important to go with people that are serious about it and are not going to be messing around or anything. You usually go with people that you’re familiar with. If you’re going to go, you have to go with respect. It’s a time where people are praying seriously, and it’s rude if you’re disturbing them,” Garibay said.

The ceremony usually consists of lighting a candle the night before the Virgin’s feast day. “During the ceremony, we burn a torch to signify how the Virgin came to light,” Garibay explained. “We walk to our church, and we pray rosaries. We sing songs to the Virgin Mary because it’s also her birthday during this time.” Garibay said.

“Once midnight hits, we all know that it’s her day, so we take a moment—usually an hour—to pray. It’s just a respectful hour of people praying,” junior Zaira Perez said.

The tradition has been embedded in many Hispanic families throughout America. While it may be celebrated differently, Catholics have done many different things to show their respects towards the Lady of Guadalupe.

“I personally like it. I’ve done it for at least five years. We always go dressed nicely because of how important it is for us. [Then,] we have presentations. Some people just pray or don’t eat, but I perform in a dance group to pay my respects to the Virgin Mary,” Perez said. “It’s a celebration, but it’s also a tradition to us because of how long we’ve been doing this. We’re Catholics, so we have to show her how important she is to us. What’s also great about this tradition is that it reminds us about our roots. We sometimes forget about where we came from because we’re so busy in our daily lives, but celebrating this tradition, it reminds us of where our people started off.”

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