DES PLAINES (AP) — Suburban Chicago officials are preparing for as many as 100,000 worshippers who are expected to visit a 12-foot-tall replica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The shrine is at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, where Masses will be held every two hours starting Wednesday afternoon through Thursday evening. They're marking the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to a report (http://bit.ly/1btA025 ) in The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald.
In Mexico, Dec. 12 has become one of the country's most important religious holidays as millions make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to honor the virgin who is said to have appeared to an Indian peasant in 1531.
Maryville's rector, Rev. Marco Mercado, says the Illinois site's popularity has grown in recent years as worshippers travel — sometimes on foot — from their own parishes to pray.
"It was never intended to be a shrine," he said. "That's the miracle of it. Because of their devotion to Our Lady, this site has gotten into the heart of the people."
Noé Quiroga said he plans to walk about Mission San Juan Diego near Arlington Heights to Maryville, which is about seven miles.
"We will be walking to say thanks to Our Lady of Guadalupe," he said. "It's stronger walking in a group. You feel united with the community."
Others will run back to their churches from Maryville carrying torches that were lit after a blessing on Wednesday evening.
"Doing something physical like this speaks to them, in terms of their spirituality," said Rev. Matthew Foley, pastor of St. James Parish in Arlington Heights who started a 21-mile torch run from Maryville to his previous parish in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood in 2004.
Maryville's shrine dates back to 1988 when a traveling statue was brought from Mexico City by a parishioner. It was later replaced by a replica of Our Lady in 1996 and blessed by the head of the basilica.