Tag Archives: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Spiritual ventures enkindle the soul

Legatus’ fall 2018 Mexico and Rome pilgrimages were magnificent excursions for intensifying faith, appreciating salvation history, and reinvigorating the fervor of today’s Ambassadors for Christ – for sharing with family and colleagues for years to come.

Miracle of Guadalupe

The four-day Our Lady of Guadalupe Family Mission Pilgrimage, September 7-10, has greatly increased in popularity. Legatus hosted its largest group yet with over 80 legates, extended families and friends.

Jacksonville members Tom and Glory Sullivan extended heartfelt promotion for the pilgrimage, having taken the trip some 30 times, affected more deeply each time by its spiritual worth. This year it was condensed to a long weekend, enabling more families to participate, as well as the two accompanying chaplains. Fr. Jeremy Davis, SOLT (who runs a school in Mexico for neglected children), and Boston’s Fr. Michael Drea, national chaplain for FOCUS, supported pilgrims with offering daily Mass, along with spiritual counsel and insights.

The group visited the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe – the most visited shrine in Christendom. They walked the correlating site at Tepeyac Hill of Our Lady’s 16th-century apparitions to St. Juan Diego (whose tilma still shows her miraculous image, and which is prominently displayed at the Shrine). The tilma holds the world’s only apparition-result which can still be seen.

Pilgrims likewise spent a full day at Girlstown (Chalco, MX), founded by the late Venerable Father Aloysius Schwartz, continued to presentday by the Sisters of Mary. Visiting with the 3,500 underprivileged orphan girls of Childrens Village there has a profound effect. Many American youth could never envision these girls’ lives – especially their love of life – without the up-close experience they get on this pilgrimage.

One young teenager from Ohio, after interacting with the girls, was inspired to organize a new fundraising campaign for them and the Sisters of Mary

In a time resigned to youth leaving the Church, or seeing them as disinterested in Her truths and history, this year’s pilgrimage saw many engaged with great zeal.

“We had more youth on this year’s trip than ever before,” said Glory Sullivan, “and they add a totally different and wholesome dynamic to it.” The Sullivans said that many parents and grandparents bring their young family members on the pilgrimage – to expose them firsthand to the Miracle of Guadalupe, the Shrine, and the charitable work at Girlstown.

“It has literally changed some kids’ lives,” Glory said. “They engage with faith, hope, and charity like never before.” And they return home incredibly transformed in spirit. The 2019 pilgrimage is set for September 6-9.

Eternal City – the Church’s home

From October 5-12, Legatus pilgrims enjoyed an exclusive immersion in the Eternal City – Rome – during its most enjoyable travel season.

A special opening Mass was offered at Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri – the pontifical parish church of the Vatican dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of Mary. Germany’s Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the main celebrant, concelebrating with Monsignor Joseph Schaedel, Indianapolis Chapter chaplain who led the trip.

A exclusive visit to the Swiss guard barracks was guided by former Swiss guard Dr. Mario Enzler, with his one-of-a-kind insights on living and working for three years among Pope Saint John Paul II’s special protective contingent. Later working as an investment banker, and today as professor of finance at Catholic University of America, he says of that special time with John Paul II, “I served a saint,” whom he believes made him a better man, executive, and leader.

Guided walking tours of Rome’s St. Mary Major, St. Pudenziana, and St. Praxedes Basilicas were taken after a special pasta-making lunch at Passetto Ristorante, one of the city’s most revered restaurants near Piazza Navona, known worldwide for its fresh, authentic regional dishes.

A day trip to the ancient hill town of Orvieto, a few hours north, featured old-town shopping and visits to its famed churches including Mass at Chapel of La Badia di Orvieto, a beautiful 12th-century restored abbey, which today also encompasses an adjacent hotel and restaurant. As Orvieto is also a wine-producing town, pilgrims enjoyed a special local-tasting before a private dinner at La Badia.

After savoring a special lunch with seminarians at the North American College in Rome, pilgrims enjoyed a private evening meeting and reception with the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Callista Gingrich, at the ambassador’s residence in Rome.

A day-long Vatican-vicinity walking tour included Mass in St. Peter’s Crypt, and included small-group Scavi Tours beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, tours of the main Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, Coliseum, Roman Forum, and other churches throughout Rome. Sites were specially hostguided by well-known Church and art historian Liz Lev. The group even paid a visit to Saint Mother Teresa’s residence in Rome, where they had the opportunity to pray in her cell and attend Adoration with the Sisters of Charity in their convent.

Finally, Legate pilgrims attended a special Wednesday audience with Pope Francis, meeting the Holy Father personally, and having keepsake photos taken with him.

One Legate said, “Just being, existing, and breathing in such holy places — and learning so much more about our faith” made every minute worthwhile.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Pro-family message of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Last month, Legatus members and their families traveled to Mexico City for our annual Guadalupe pilgrimage. I have been to Mexico City on this pilgrimage three times now, and each pilgrimage leaves something with me. The Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe, which is the home of the tilma of Juan Diego, is a very unique pilgrimage site. It is the most visited Marian pilgrimage locale in the world and as is sometimes pointed out, the only place we can still see the physical evidence of an apparition of our Blessed Mother.

Stephen Henley

One of the most unique aspects of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the ribbon at her waist. In ancient times, this attire for an Aztec woman would signify that she was pregnant. This would mean that this, then, is the only apparition where Mary appears pregnant with Jesus. During the pilgrimage, I spent time reflecting on this aspect of Mary as the mother of God, and on Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the unborn.

I tie this image of Mary with child to that of the Holy Family. Among other characteristics, being pro-life means being pro-family. When visiting the Shrine, aside from seeing thousands of pilgrims, there are many Mexican families traveling together to make this pilgrimage. Not only parents with their kids, but several generations, great-grandparents, grandparents, extended family. There are fewer images in our world that can speak more to real pro-life belief, than that of a family praying together.

Children, regardless of circumstance, are a real, tangible gift of God’s powerful love. Mother Teresa once said, “we must remember that life begins at home and we must also remember that the future of humanity passes through the family.” The family is the first Church, and an example for the world of God’s presence and love. In the historical moment of tolerance in which we find ourselves, it was a relief and a reassurance to see so many families come together united in Christ.

Our Lady of Guadalupe sends us a powerful message, an example of love and sacrifice for family to nations and cultures that have great need of her. Let us take this time to focus on family as a symbol of God’s love in our world.

STEPHEN HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.

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.”

Tepeyac Hill


Mike and Esther Belz, members of Legatus’ San Antonio Chapter, pose with students from Girlstown

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.


Steve and Debbie Peroutka of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter with a student at Girlstown

Steve and Debbie Peroutka of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter with a student at Girlstown

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. 


Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message


Narrated by Jim Caviezel
Run time: 58 minutes
New on DVD, $19.95
Not rated
Official Website

This new documentary film narrated by actor Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) offers original insights into the details, story and impact of the 16th century apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe — one of the most recognizable religious icons in the American hemisphere.

Produced by the Knights of Columbus, the film paints a comprehensive and inspiring picture of the history, facts and legacy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Being aired as part of ABC television’s Visions and Values series, the documentary will have a broadcast window from Oct. 11 to Dec. 10. It was simultaneously released on DVD.

The film delves into the inexplicable existence of the image that appeared on the tilma (cloak) of an indigenous convert, St. Juan Diego, who received a series of visions of the Virgin Mary over the course of four days in December 1531.

The indigenous people were amazed how the image revealed important elements of the Christian faith through native symbols — an actual codex — that they could understand. Most experts and historians affirm that the image miraculously imprinted on the tilma resulted in the conversion of millions to the Catholic faith.

The image itself has long been puzzling to the scientific community, since it has been shown to exist without having been painted, has survived despite extreme age, adverse conditions and a bombing.

The image also exhibits features reminiscent of photographs, such as reflections in the image’s eyes, even though it appeared hundreds of years before photography.

The documentary brings this remarkable history to life through modern reenactments, 3D animations that allow viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the intricacies of the centuries-old wonder, and interviews with leading theologians, historians and scientists.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

To Jesus through Mary, down Mexico way

Our Lady of Guadalupe inspires Legates on 2nd annual pilgrimage . . .

guadalupeAlmost 500 years after Our Lady of Guadalupe set in motion Mexico’s mass conversion, her appeal remains as profound and enduring as the miraculous image she left on St. Juan Diego’s cloak in 1531.

The 77 pilgrims on the second annual Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to Mexico, Sept. 13-14, had experiences similarly profound and, they hope, enduring in effect.

“We Legates have the obligation to bring Christ to the world in a big way, but with utter humility, just like Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said John Hale, a member of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter.

Hale’s company, Corporate Travel, arranged the trip, and he was joined by wife Kristan and four of their five children, ages eight to 13. “The kids were so caught up in the joy of Our Blessed Mother that they didn’t want to leave!” he said.

A natural collaboration

Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter and The Papal Foundation, first suggested a joint Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to Mexico.

The couple has been traveling to Mexico for decades to visit the Blessed Mother’s shrine as well as a girls’ school. A combined Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage was a natural fit, especially given the overlap in membership. The leadership of both organizations concurred, and the generous turnout — up more than 30 from last year — suggests this may become an annual event.

“Each time we go, it gets better,” said Tom Sullivan. “On this pilgrimage we shared testimonies the night before we returned home. You couldn’t help but cry when you heard how the Blessed Mother touched so many lives.”

Later one of the pilgrims emailed him and Glory. “She told us the pilgrimage changed her life. ‘But I’m mad at you,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want to change!’”


The pilgrims’ first stop was Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. Then it was on to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where St. Juan Diego’s cloak or tilma is on display.

“I passed the tilma more times than I could tell you,” remarked Suzanne Rea of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter, who traveled with husband Tony and two grandchildren. “Mary’s love was enveloping!”

Pilgrims climbed Tepeyac Hill, where a chapel marks the first of five Marian apparitions, before returning to the basilica for Confession and a private Mass.


On the second and final day of the pilgrimage, the pilgrims visited Villa de los Niñas, a boarding school for some 3,000 girls run by the Sisters of Mary. It is one of 15 such schools in eight countries around the world, each single-sex and known in English as “Boystown” and “Girlstown.” Mexico’s Boystown is in Guadalajara, while Girlstown is in Chalco, east of Mexico City.

The schools award scholarships to impoverished but promising students. In addition to rigorous academics and practical training, the students are catechized and inspired to evangelize society.

“The pure joy on these girls’ faces just melted you away and put life in complete and total perspective,” said Legatus tour leader Laura Sacha.

Fr. Daniel Leary, who celebrated Sunday Mass at Girlstown, said it was “a grace encountering girls who are like the roses from Mary’s tilma, they’re so beautiful.”

“These girls have dedicated their lives to the Blessed Mother in repayment for the privilege they have of being there,” said Tony Rea. “They thanked us, but we wanted to thank them for letting us help.”

The combined effect of visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe’s shrine and Girlstown made this pilgrimage, said Tony, “the most moving of all” the Marian sites he and Suzanne have visited the world over.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is a Chicago-based freelance journalist.

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.


guadalupe-2The 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.


guadalupe-1On 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.

The value of one life

John Hunt writes about the successful Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to Mexico . . .

John Hunt

John Hunt

Our Catholic faith never fails to remind us that every life is sacred. In a country where 3,300 unborn babies are killed daily by abortion, it can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of this assault on humanity. Yet it’s important to remind ourselves of the value of one life, of every life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary made this eminently clear on Dec. 9, 1531, when she appeared to a humble Aztec Indian, St. Juan Diego, on a hill outside México City. Her message in those five apparitions was one of love and unity with all peoples whatever their state in life.

On an extraordinary weekend in September, members of Legatus and The Papal Foundation experienced this most tangible miracle at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As we moved past the miraculous tilma (cloak), my initial reaction was: “I’ve seen this image many times.” But as I returned again and again to view the image, I found myself not just looking at the image but seeing it.

This gift to one poor and simple man was also a gift to mankind for all eternity. So, while many treat the gift of life rather cavalierly, Our Blessed Mother reminds us of her enduring love for the Juan Diegos of the world — for you and me and for every human being. (Click here for a full report on the pilgrimage.)

Our pilgrimage weekend continued as we visited Villa De Los Niñas (Girlstown), a school in Chalco, outside México City. This impressive school was founded by Monsignor Aloysius “Al” Schwartz, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. His schools have prospered in the Philippines, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, and México. Father Al died in 1992, and the Church has proclaimed him a Servant of God, and his cause for canonization progresses.

Father Al’s life clearly shows the value of “one life,” but the beauty of his ministry resides in the persons of the thousands of girls (in Girlstowns) and boys (in Boystowns) around the world. During our visit, pilgrims met 3,000 beautiful young ladies drawn from the heart of poverty in México. Under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mary, they’re invited to grow in their faith and prepare to change the culture through their education and formation.

Father Al’s vision for the elevation of the poor and his recognition of the value of one life, of every life is certainly the fulfillment of the message of Guadalupe. As Our Lady said to Juan Diego, “My little child, the smallest of all, let nothing afflict you.”

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548)

Meet the humble man Our Lady of Guadalupe chose to bring her image to the world . . .

Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Feast Day: December 9
Canonized: July 31, 2002

Juan Diego was a native Mexican whose name “Cuauhtlatoatzin” means “the talking eagle.” He was born in Mexico City and converted to Catholicism when he was about 50. On Dec. 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to Mass when the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill and asked him to go to the bishop and request in her name that a shrine be built there. The bishop, the Franciscan Juan de Zumárraga, didn’t believe him and demanded a sign.

On Dec. 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Our Lady appeared and instructed him to pick some flowers which she arranged in his tilma (a long cloak). He presented them to the astonished bishop. The cloak also bore the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, exactly as she had appeared to Juan.

The bishop granted Juan Diego permission to live near the chapel where he had commanded the miraculous image to be preserved. Juan devoted his life to caring for the church and was buried in the chapel.

Pope John Paul II canonized him saying, “Guadalupe and Juan Diego have a deep ecclesial and missionary meaning and are models of perfectly inculturated evangelization.”

This column is written for Legatus magazine by Dr. Matthew Bunson, senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and author of “John Paul II’s Book of Saints.”