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updated: 12/9/2011 4:35 PM

150,000 expected in Des Plaines for religious celebration

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  • Pilgrims gather for the second day of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration at Maryville in Des Plaines in 2009.

      Pilgrims gather for the second day of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration at Maryville in Des Plaines in 2009.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Candles line the grotto alongside the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe during celebration at Maryville in Des Plaines in 2009.

      Candles line the grotto alongside the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe during celebration at Maryville in Des Plaines in 2009.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • 'Feast' traffic plan

    Graphic: 'Feast' traffic plan (click image to open)

  • 'Feast' traffic plan

    Graphic: 'Feast' traffic plan (click image to open)

 
 

Tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims will converge on Des Plaines this weekend for an overnight celebration honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.

The event, which marks the anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 to an Aztec Indian in Mexico, is on the campus of Maryville Academy at the Chapel/Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1100 N. River Road.

The celebration begins at roughly 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, and ends with a closing Mass at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12. There will be a short fireworks display at midnight Sunday on the north end of the Maryville campus.

With the weekend weather forecast looking favorable, "we are expecting around 150,000 (people) in 30 hours," said the Rev. Miguel Martinez, rector of the Chapel/Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who will celebrate Mass at 8 p.m. Sunday. "Most of the people will come Sunday and Monday."

While the crowds will be largely Latino Catholics, a diversity of people are expected to attend, including those from the Polish, Filipino, Korean and Hindu communities, irrespective of religious affiliation, Martinez said.

"They see it as a celebration of Virgin Mary and they come," Martinez said. "Our Lady of Guadalupe, her devotion goes beyond the Hispanic community."

For the first time, the feast will be broadcast nationally and internationally on Univision television.

"They will actually connect with the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which is the main basilica," Martinez said. "Two million people visit the shrine in Mexico City."

Many followers consider the Des Plaines shrine a branch of the basilica in Mexico City, Martinez said.

"People that come here receive the blessings as they would in the basilica in Mexico City," Martinez said. "Because of the importance, and the people that come from all over the place, they (Univision) have given it national recognition. It will be watched all over the United States and Mexico for the first time."

The first celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines was held 24 years ago with only 12 people participating.

"It became popular about eight years ago," Martinez said. "Most people come from the Chicago area and suburbs."

However, organized groups from Iowa, Texas, and even as far as California will be in attendance, Martinez added.

At 10:30 p.m., the Rev. Marco Mercado, director of the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics, will bless torches that will be carried by hundreds of parishioners representing Hispanic parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago from the shrine to their respective parishes.

That will be followed by a solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the gym to the outdoor grotto.

At midnight Sunday, the popular Chicago-based Hispanic band Alacranes Musical (The Scorpions) will sing the "maņanitas," or songs of serenade for the Virgin Mary.

"It's the first time we have a renowned band doing it," Martinez said.

That will be followed by 1 a.m. Mass celebrated in the gym at Maryville Academy. There will be Masses throughout the night during the torch run. Runners will pass through the suburbs of Rosemont, Schiller Park, River Grove, Elmwood Park and several Chicago neighborhoods.

The torches will be placed at statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and "maņanitas" or songs honoring Mary will be sung, followed by 5 a.m. Mass at the various parishes.

The closing Mass at 8 p.m. Monday will be presided by one of Chicago's new bishops, Alberto Rojas.

During the festivities, Central Road will be closed to vehicle traffic at Des Plaines River Road at times and motorists are advised to avoid the area. Off-site parking is available at Oakton Community College or various parking lots in Mount Prospect. For information about the Des Plaines shrine, visit motherofamerica.us.

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