I thoroughly enjoyed the diocesan convention last fall and was inspired by Bishop Sean’s call to pilgrimage as well as Dean Pampa’s and Canon Cesaretti’s follow up. Canon Tjeltveit posted an excellent summary from both an historical and current perspective. After accepting the offer to be the parish shepherd, my inner engineer kicked in trying to envision activities, schedules, and resources, but honestly, I was lost. Recently, many excellent resources have been posted, but at the time, I found it difficult make the leap from vague notion to firm concept. I asked for help and received it in a quite unexpected way. During a December business trip “little coincidences” helped me to fill in some of the blanks.
Just by coincidence, I happened to be visiting a chemical plant outside of Puebla Mexico, and just happened to do it a few days before the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and just happened to stay at a hotel that was right on the path to Mexico City and the Basilica that hosted the celebration and voilà – Peregrinos.
Peregrinos, Spanish for pilgrims, make an annual pilgrimage to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe to commemorate and rejoice at the appearance of the Virgin Mary to local peasants in 1535. La Virgen de Guadalupe has captured the hearts of Mexican Catholics and the celebration is one of the largest of the year in Mexico.
Peregrinos flooded the roads, all making their way to the city for the celebration. I saw thousands. Some were walking, some jogging, some running in an Olympic torch style relay, many were bicycling, and some of the elders were riding the support vehicles. There were many teenagers and young adults. Each group typically had a lead vehicle ranging from a pick-up truck to a full semi-trailer. The vehicle invariably featured a brightly lit shrine to the Virgin to lead their way and inspire their journey. A follow up vehicle carried food and provisions and provided protection to the rear. The pilgrims came from all over Mexico, typically in parish or town groups. Many journeyed for days or weeks while covering hundreds of miles. Some of the larger vehicles had space to sleep but most pereguinos spent the cold nights under the stars along the side of the road. Despite all the hardships – they were smiling as they went on their way.