Horse riders in unofficial kickoff to Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities
An annual horseback and trailer pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday will be an appetizer before next week's full buffet of religious celebrations in Des Plaines.
Now in its eighth year, the Archdiocese of Chicago's pilgrimage with the horses and trailers is considered the unofficial local start of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe that Catholics around the world will recognize Thursday. The feast celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to indigenous peasant St. Juan Diego in 1531 near present-day Mexico City.
Following a 9 a.m. Mass at the Forest Preserves of Cook County's Dam No. 1 Woods East on Dundee Road just east of Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, about 100 horseback riders from Club Los Vaqueros Unidos will start today's procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at 1170 N. River Road in Des Plaines.
Organizers said it'll take three to four hours for the riders to reach the shrine. Upon the cavalcade's arrival, there will be a special blessing of the riders and horses, with the same of the trailers and drivers as part of a 5 p.m. Mass.
Archdiocese officials said the overnight festivities honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe will start with a Mass at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the shrine. There will be Masses throughout the night and into Thursday, when the closing one is set for 7 p.m.
The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, said at least 200,000 pilgrims visited last year. Organizers will be prepared for a similar crowd next week on the 60-acre campus, with many pilgrims again planning to walk from Chicago to the shrine.
Sanchez said Friday that most Masses will be celebrated in Spanish and English. The Des Plaines shrine is the only place in the world outside the Basilica in Mexico City where believers can satisfy what's known as mandas, their promises made to Mary, according to the Catholic Church.
"One of the most important things that we have is it's a family event," Sanchez said. "People are invited -- not only Hispanics, not only Mexicans -- this is for the whole city of Chicago and the whole Chicagoland area to come and experience this wonderful tradition and this wonderful celebration."
As for logistics, remote parking and free shuttle service will be will be available at the following locations from 6 p.m. Wednesday through 5 a.m. Thursday: Oakton Community College, 1600 East Golf Road in Des Plaines; St. Emily Parish, 1400 E. Central Road in Mount Prospect; and Palwaukee Plaza, 664 Milwaukee Ave. in Prospect Heights.
Officials said all Masses will be in the new St. Joseph Chapel, with the exception of midnight at the outdoor plaza. A 12-foot replica statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe that came from Mexico City sits in the shrine.
Sanchez said about 350 volunteers will handle a variety of chores. He asked that all visitors dress for the weather and take safety precautions if walking.
"Whether it's freezing cold or whether it's warm, people come to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe," he said. "Both Catholics and non-Catholics who have a very special devotion to Our Lady come and celebrate with us."