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Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations face pandemic restrictions

Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations

PATRICK T. FALLON | AFP

John Burger - published on 12/10/20

Largest and oldest American fiestas forced to tone down in midst of pandemic.

This Friday night, the very large Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and the vast plaza in front of it, normally filled with people paying homage to “la Morenita,” will be largely empty.

But Mexico City is not the only place where the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted celebrations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican, almost 500 years ago and left a miraculous image. 

All over the United States, where the feast is a highlight of the year for millions of Mexican-Americans, parish- and community-based celebrations will be toned down. And what is thought to be the largest celebration in the U.S., at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois, will be livestreamed instead. 

In recent years, more than 200,000 devotees have attended the celebration, outside Chicago, throughout the night of December 11 and into December 12, said the Chicago Tribune, citing the Des Plaines Police Department. 

While the shrine grounds will be closed to protect “the health and safety of the thousands of pilgrims who yearly visit,” Fr. Esequiel Sanchez, rector, insisted that this is “still a time of prayer, petition and hope.”

But if Des Plaines’ is the largest Guadalupe celebration, Los Angeles’ is the oldest in the U.S. It was established in 1931, the 400th anniversary of the apparitions, by Mexicans fleeing persecution by their government during the Cristero War. The theme, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of Healing and Hope,” reflects on the importance of the presence of Mary in our lives, especially during these challenging times. The Mass and procession normally draw more than 40,000 people.

“Today, we ask Our Lady of Guadalupe for those who are sick, for the dying, for the ones that have lost their life and their families, for all those whose lives have been hurt and disrupted,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez during his bilingual homily last Saturday, in the middle of the novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe. “We especially ask her intercession to bring us deliverance from this plague of the coronavirus.”

The celebration began with a mile-long car procession by members of the Guadalupano groups representing more than 30 parishes that participate annually in the Procession and Mass. The cars in the procession were decorated by individual households with flowers, images and messages honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego commemorating their feast days. The historic procession began at Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel and led down Ramona St. to Mission San Gabriel. 

A digital video novena leading the faithful virtually through prayer and reflection for nine days leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is available from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. See facebook.com/lacatholics and lacatholics.org/guadalupe. Each day, new videos in English and Spanish will be shared about the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe and living the Catholic faith in the domestic Church.

In our slideshow, we present some images from celebrations last year in Los Angeles, Des Plains, and New York City.

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