Moved in Mexico
Legatus pilgrims visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Girlstown
For the third consecutive year, Legatus members participated in a joint pilgrimage organized by Legatus and The Papal Foundation.
The 44 pilgrims traveled to Mexico City from Nov. 6-9 where they visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and saw St. Juan Diego’s tilma with the miraculous image of the Blessed Mother from 1531.
The day after visiting the basilica and the sites associated with Juan Diego and the apparition of Our Lady, pilgrims visited a remarkable girls’ school called Villa de los Niñas, also known as Girlstown.
“It’s very humbling,” Legatus conference director Laura Sacha said of the visit to Girlstown, located east of Mexico City in Chalco. “You almost don’t feel worthy to be there because they have such an appreciation for everything.”
The annual pilgrimage to Mexico has been a notable success since Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of The Papal Foundation and Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter, helped organize the first joint outing in 2013.
The Sullivans have been traveling to Mexico for decades to visit the basilica and Girlstown, which is run by the Sisters of Mary. The order runs boarding schools for girls and boys in 15 locations around the world. Mexico’s Boystown school is in Guadalajara.
The three-day pilgrimage began on a Friday as Legates arrived in Mexico City. That evening, pilgrims enjoyed dinner together as a speaker prepared them for what they would see and experience during the next day’s trip to the basilica.
For Larry and Mary Anne Eagan of Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter, the pilgrimage was their first visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a particularly moving experience for Mary Anne, who has a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.
“It was a great trip, very spiritual, very uplifting,” said Larry Eagan, who purchased tickets for the pilgrimage as a Christmas gift to his wife. He said Sacha had told him about the pilgrimage during a Legatus-sponsored trip to the Holy Land the previous year.
Karl and Angelique Barreto, members of the Oklahoma City Chapter, also made their first visit to the basilica in November. They brought along their two sons, ages 12 and 21.
“We did not know many details at all before we left,” Angelique Barreto said. “Many of our friends and people in our parish had said many good things about it. They said the spiritual experience was very rewarding. That’s why we decided to go.”
On Saturday, Barreto said, the group attended a private Mass held in one of the basilica’s chapels. Pilgrims also visited the site of the apparitions of Our Lady on Tepeyac Hill, the location where Juan Diego lived and wore the tilma that still bears the miraculous image.
“Seeing the tilma was phenomenal,” Barreto said.
On Saturday night, Tom and Glory Sullivan told the pilgrims what to expect the next day while visiting Girlstown. Egan said Glory Sullivan winked at him and said, “The best is yet to come.”
“I was really intrigued by that,” said Egan, who explained that the 3,000 girls and religious sisters at Girlstown greeted pilgrims like rock stars the next day.
“The welcome was just overwhelming,” he said. Pilgrims attended Mass with the girls and were deeply moved by their piety and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.
“It was so humbling to see the girls worship,” Eagan said. “I have never been to a Mass, even with adults, with such rapt attention to the Eucharist.”
Barreto concurred. “You just see their devotion to their faith. It’s such an example to us all,” she said, adding that the girls were joyful, smiling and thanking the pilgrims for their support and contributions. “And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘We should be thanking them!’”
Sacha said she was moved by the experience. “When you go there and you hear the stories of where these girls came from, to see where they are now, they are like angels.”
“They are living saints right before you. They have a lot to teach us. They taught us a lot about hope that afternoon,” she said, noting that the fourth annual Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage is scheduled for Oct. 21-24, 2016.
The visits to the basilica and Girlstown complement each other well, she said. “You see a historical miracle that happened and the next day you see a living miracle.”
BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.