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Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrants to descend on Des Plaines

For Alejandro Guevara, it’s rooted in family tradition. For Raymundo Flores, it’s about giving thanks.

Both will be among 125,000 to 150,000 Catholic faithful taking part in Thursday’s overnight celebration and torch run honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe by making a pilgrimage to her Des Plaines shrine.

The annual event will feature newly appointed Archbishop Blase Cupich celebrating the 12:30 a.m. Mass Friday in the outdoor grotto — the first time a Chicago archbishop has done so at the celebration.

“I’m a strong follower of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Flores, a member of Little Village-based St. Agnes of Bohemia, who will make the pilgrimage with his family. “I asked her for her blessing, and she gave me so much. . . . She gave me family when I was going the wrong path, looking for family in the wrong places. I met a good woman and have two kids. I turned my life around.”

This year marks the 482nd anniversary of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is a day when Catholics across Latin America celebrate the Virgin Mary’s multiple appearances in the area that is now Mexico City, to Juan Diego Cuahtlatoatzin, an Aztec who converted to Catholicism.

Parishes in Chicago and the suburbs are participating in the torch run here, and some are hosting in-church-only celebrations.

After celebrating Mass at the Des Plaines shrine Friday morning, Cupich will celebrate Mass at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Parish in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.

At St. John Bosco parish in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood, 300 people will embark on their roughly six-hour walk to the Des Plaines shrine, and 300 bicyclists also are expected to join the pilgrimage, said parish member Felipe Boyas.

“This is very significant for us,” Boyas said. “Our Lady of Guadalupe, she intercedes. She’s mother to us. Many people, if they’re struggling in their lives, a family member is ill, they try to ask her for a miracle.”

Festivities at the Des Plaines shrine will kick off with a 6 p.m. opening Mass Thursday. Masses are scheduled every few hours, with a closing Mass at 7 p.m. Friday.

The lighting of the Guadalupe Torch is set for 10 p.m., followed by pilgrims lighting their own torches, then carrying them aloft as they run back to their home parishes.

Upon arriving at their parishes, runners place their torches near statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and sing mananitas — a serenade that honors Mary, the Mother of God. Mananitas also are sung at the Des Plaines shrine.

Hispanic Catholics celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe as the mother of the one true God, and the torches are a symbol of Christ’s light in this world, according to the archdiocese. Every year, thousands gather in her presence and seek her intercession and protection, the archdiocese noted.

The torch run began at the Des Plaines shrine in 2004 following a request by Rev. Matt Foley, then pastor of St. Agnes of Bohemia, according to the archdiocese. Foley asked to light a torch at the shrine to be carried back by runners in the form of a relay to his parish almost 26 miles away. Eighty-five people from St Agnes participated in that first run.