The celebration at the Des Plaines shrine honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe continued to draw thousands today, with a series of Masses scheduled for this afternoon, followed by a theatrical presentation at 6 p.m. and a closing Mass at 8 p.m.
This year is the second Lorena Martinez of Hanover Park has stopped to honor the Virgin at the shrine on the Maryville Academy campus in Des Plaines. She arrived Sunday night with her son and daughter with a special reason to be thankful.
Martinez's mother had an operation on her spine Monday in Zacatecas, Mexico. It was a dangerous procedure and the doctors hadn't been especially hopeful it would allow her to walk. But she was in such pain she decided it was worth the risk. Shortly before Martinez's visit to the Virgin, less than a week after the surgery, Martinez saw her mother walking via video chat.
"For me, to see her walk, it was a miracle," Martinez said. "That's why we came -- to give thanks."
The shrine to the Virgin was already overflowing with flowers and candles Sunday night as a two-day celebration neared its halfway point. People from across the Chicago region traveled to the Maryville campus as they do every year in honor of the anniversary of the day the Virgin showed herself to an indigenous peasant in 1531 in Mexico. Like Martinez, many of the visitors were giving thanks for their own miracles. Others were simply appreciating the gift of life and health.
The celebration started Sunday morning with dancing and singing for the Virgin and several masses throughout the day and night. Fireworks and songs at midnight kicked off the second day of festivities.
Everything leads up to the most spiritual closing Mass, according to Avelino Cortez, coordinator of Radio Maria, which broadcasts the celebrations to Houston and Mexico. Cortez has been helping to promote the festivities for the last few years and said he expects more people than ever to show up as word of the shrine spreads further into the Catholic communities.
"We're happy to see so many people and see the celebration growing," Cortez said. "The Virgin is the mother to all of us."
Though the vast majority of those present Sunday were Latino, Catholics across the racial and ethnic spectrum stopped to visit the Virgin.
Besides the regular Masses, a tent was set up near the shrine with food for sale as well as flowers, candles, T-shirts, rosaries and various images of the Virgin. Music floated across the campus from a mix of live bands and recorded performances.
Juan Casas of Wheeling was part of a group of traditional dancers during the ceremonies. He said he started at 7 a.m. Sunday and would continue to dance every few hours until Monday evening.
"We dance for the Virgin," Casas said. "It's to give thanks."
Casas has been dancing for the celebrations for four years but said he has enjoyed the traditional dances since he was a child.
About 8 p.m., a group of 250 people kicked off a 15-mile walk from Maryville Academy to Our Lady of Mercy parish in Chicago. Luis Galicia said they rode on five buses to get to the shrine but will walk back in a traditional torch ceremony. Galicia expected to increase the walkers' ranks along the way and arrive in Chicago with close to 350 people by 1 a.m. Like at the shrine in Des Plaines, celebrations at Our Lady of Mercy will go all night and all day Monday before an evening Mass.
"This is a very large celebration," Galicia said. "It's nonstop."