Leaders of Des Plaines' Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine are launching a national campaign to to build the world's second-largest basilica of its kind at the site.
The shrine's rector, the Rev. Marco Mercado, announced the plan Monday during a new conference held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the shrine, which was placed at Maryville City of Youth on July 4, 1988.
The outdoor shrine attracts 7,000 to 9,000 people each Sunday for mass, who file in and out all day, Mercado said. People come from all over the country to visit, he added.
The attendance numbers make the it the second most visited Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in the world, behind one in Mexico City, Mercado said.
The plan announced Monday calls for a structure that could hold between 4,000 and 4,500 people, making it the second largest Our Lady of Guadalupe site in the world.
Proponents already are in talks with Des Plaines city officials, said Joaquin Martinez, founder of the committee that brought the shrine its current home 25 years ago. He said they want the basilica to be at the corner of North River and East Central roads, near where the shrine is now.
Des Plaines Mayor Matthew Bogusz on Monday called the shrine an asset to the city.
Martinez first thought to bring a shrine to Des Plaines after arranging a religious celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe in December 1986. The shrine was blessed in 1987 and permanently placed in 1988.
About 12 people came out to the shrine in 1988 for the Our Lady of Guadalupe festival, Martinez said. In 2006, close to 175,000 people attended the event held each December, he added.
The huge increase can be partially attributed to a 2004 change in church policy. Before then, believers could only officially pay their respects to the shrine in Mexico City when they experienced a "miracle," like a loved one recovering from a life-threatening illness.
In 2004, clergy approved the Des Plaines shrine as another place for believers to offer their thanks.
But the increased attendance is just a blessing from above, Martinez said.
"We believe the Blessed Mother really wants to be with all of us," he said.