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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Matthew A. Rarey | author
Oct 01, 2014
Filed under Features
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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!’”

Guadalupe

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.

Girlstown

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.

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