-Hispanic Day of Pilgrimage 2023-
Diocese of La Crosse
Though Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Queen of all the Americas, an especially tender, fervent love for her has naturally made its mark in Mexico, where she appeared to St. Juan Diego. Many Mexican Catholics today, living far from their native country, carry with them as a treasure this deep devotion to La Virgen de Guadalupe. Thus, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse hosts the annual diocesan Hispanic Day of Pilgrimage. This day is held on the Saturday nearest the Nativity of Mary on September 8, so that it fell this year on September 9.
Faith and Heritage
The event brings crowds of hundreds every year; this year’s attendance was estimated at 450. “People from Mexico explain the Shrine here in La Crosse as a home,” explains Director of Pilgrim Services Steven Doll, “a little bit of Mexico here in La Crosse, WI, and their traditions and their heritage.” These fervent pilgrims find at the Shrine not only the traditions that inspire their devotion, but the opportunity to gain the same graces received by making a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City; this affiliation was expressly granted by the Vatican in 2021. The La Crosse Shrine is thus truly a spiritual home for all Mexican Catholics, especially for the many for whom an international trip would be difficult or impossible.
Naturally, Mexican culture permeates the day. Festivities include the singing of las mañanitas, hymns to Our Lady; an almuerzo (lunch) with tacos, tamales, and more; and danzantes, performers of complex Mexican dances which developed in indigenous culture and were subsequently taken up into Catholic celebrations. The pilgrims enter into their Marian celebration with all their heart and energy; as Doll observes, “So many families, so generous; there’s a great joy [among them] about being at the Shrine.”
The Universal Church
A day of Mexican culture also offers a contrast to the cultural expressions with which many of the Shrine’s neighbors are more familiar. The La Crosse area includes many Catholics of Polish, German, and Irish background, with markedly different traditions. The Church is “catholic,” that is, universal, encompassing all cultures; and her children can be enriched by encountering each other’s ways of life and learning from them. “The Mexican culture really has retained a lot of these beautiful Catholic traditions and centers their devotion around the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Doll points out, also noting lightly, “It’s not very often you get a chance to taste authentic Mexican cuisine.”
All this vibrant festivity is an expression of a love that has lasted five hundred years, since Our Lady entrusted to these pilgrims’ ancestors, through St. Juan Diego, her miraculous image and her message of divine love. The La Crosse Shrine is indeed home for them, as it is the “little sacred house” of the Lady who still says, “I am truly your compassionate mother, yours and of all the people who live together in this land.”
-A priest of Mexico and Martyr for Christ the King-
Bl. Miguel Pro, while not yet a canonized saint, is an eminently fitting patron for the Shrine. He gave his life as a missionary and martyr for the persecuted Church of his native land. Add names to the Bl. Miguel Pro Guild and they will be remembered on the fourth Monday of each month.
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