Thousands of pilgrims already travel every year to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the campus of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.
Now, those who want to express eternal devotion to her can secure a permanent resting place next to a 30-foot sculpture of the Patroness of the Americas across the street at All Saints Cemetery.
The recently installed granite sculpture with mosaic images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego will be dedicated at 9:30 a.m. today by the Most Rev. John R. Manz, auxiliary bishop of Chicago. The sculpture sits in the far northwest corner of the cemetery, near Central Road.
A smaller, 12-foot sculpture will be dedicated next month at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside.
Ted Ratajczyk, director of cemetery services for Catholic Cemeteries, said there's already a much smaller Our Lady of Guadalupe statue at Maryhill Cemetery in Niles, but people have been asking about the installation of one at All Saints for some time.
"We don't have anything at All Saints Cemetery that attracts or is an integral part of the Hispanic community," Ratajczyk said. "Over the years it's been requested by families if we would have anything."
Pilgrims make their way to the Maryville campus on Dec. 12 every year to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A 12-foot-tall statue sits atop a stone formation there, creating a shrine where devotees bring candles and bouquets of flowers. It's the only place in the world outside of the Basilica in Mexico City where people can satisfy their mandas, or promises, to the Virgin Mary, according to the church.
The shrine -- and the new cemetery sculpture -- displays what believers say was the apparition of Mary speaking to Juan Diego on a hill outside Mexico City in 1531, when she asked him to build a church there in her honor.
The sculpture at All Saints Cemetery was crafted by Gianfranco Tassara of Inspired Artisans in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is made of Mesabi Black granite and Moonlight Gray granite from Coldspring Granite in Minnesota.
The mosaic images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego are made up of Venetian glass tiles from Italy that measure one-half inch by one-half inch.
The sculpture shows roses floating from Our Lady of Guadalupe and gathering in Juan Diego's cloak -- believed to be a miracle because it was wintertime.
Some gravestones near the sculpture will feature the same rose petal mosaic tiles, Ratajczyk said. More than 3,700 gravesites are available for purchase in the immediate area of the sculpture, with room for expansion eastward if necessary, he said. The median price for a gravesite and headstone is $1,800.