Legates’ Guadalupe pilgrimage
Marian-themed September weekend inspires Legates and Papal Foundation members . . .
Even though it’s been nearly 500 years since Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, her appeal — and her message — have not diminished with time. For that matter, neither has the miraculous image she left on Juan Diego’s cloak in December of 1531.
For the 45 pilgrims on the inaugural Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to México, the two-day experience also left an indelible mark on their hearts and souls.
“For many of the pilgrims, to one degree or another, this has been a life-changing experience,” Legatus executive director John Hunt said of the Sept. 28-29 pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage was the brainchild of Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of The Papal Foundation and Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter. The couple has been traveling to México for decades to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a remarkable girls’ school called Villa de los Niños. Legatus then teamed up with The Papal Foundation to launch the pilgrimage.
Legates’ first stop was the México City’s Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, one of the oldest and largest Catholic cathedrals in the Americas. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813, and consecrated in 1656.
Next on the itinerary was an entire afternoon at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After viewing Juan Diego’s tilma, which bears the miraculous image of Our Lady, pilgrims climbed Tepeyac Hill where a chapel marks the first of five Marian apparitions. After touring the campus, they returned to the basilica for Mass and Confession.
Joining the pilgrims were Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski from the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J.; Monsignor Sylvester Cronin, co-chaplain of Legatus’ Northern New Jersey Chapter; and Fr. Carter Griffin, vice-rector of the Blessed John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Bishop Bootkoski said he was struck by the fact that Our Lady appeared as an Indian woman, which led to the conversion of México. He noted that the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe underlines God’s transcendence and infinite mercy.
On the final day, pilgrims journeyed to Chalco, east of México City, to visit Villa de los Niñas. With 15 locations in eight countries around the world, all run by the Sisters of Mary, the boarding schools are known as “Boystown” and “Girlstown” in English. México’s Boystown is in Guadalajara while Girlstown is in Chalco.
The schools award scholarships to students from the poorest areas of the country, based on academic performance and need. The schools’ founder, Monsignor Aloysius “Al” Schwartz, has been declared a Servant of God.
Pilgrims joined the school’s 3,000 students for Sunday Mass before enjoying lunch with the sisters who run the school. The rest of the day was spent touring the campus and interacting with students.
“The girls and the boys who attend these schools become the hope of the country in which they live,” explained Glory Sullivan.
“They’re graduating 6,000 disciples to evangelize the world every year,” Tom Sullivan added. “They have 100,000 alumni out there who are leaders — mothers and fathers, priests and nuns.”
John Hunt said that he and his wife Kathie were inspired by the pilgrimage experience. “I would encourage Legates to come and open their hearts to Our Blessed Mother and allow her to work miracles.” (Click here for Hunt’s reflections on the pilgrimage.)
John Hale, a member of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter, has been on dozens of pilgrimages. He was moved to tears by the entire weekend. “With all 3,000 of the young ladies loving us, clapping for us,” he said, “all I could think of was that I had done nothing for them — and how unworthy I am of their love. At the end of that long walk down the aisle as they applauded us, I realized that it was really a reflection of my own unworthiness before Christ’s love.
“I had a similar experience before Our Blessed Mother at Guadalupe,” he said. “It was a very Marian weekend with the love of these girls and the love of Our Lady — all reflecting Christ’s love in an amazing way. It was truly one of the most spiritually important pilgrimages I’ve ever made.”
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.