This month will mark the 481st anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico in 1531. She appeared to the Mexican peasant three times between Dec. 9 and Dec. 12, when she instructed him to gather roses from the hillside and deliver them to his bishop with a request for a church to be built in her honor on that hillside. When St. Juan Diego opened his cloak, or tilma, before the bishop, the roses fell out and revealed Mary’s image on the peasant’s tilma.
That tilma — with Mary’s image still visible — now hangs in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and the image is recognized around the globe as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Pope John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the Americas in 1999 and canonized St. Juan Diego in 2002. Parishes, schools and families in Geneva, Clyde and Penn Yan recently hosted a replica of the iconic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which currently is traveling around the Finger Lakes region through the Knights of Columbus’ Marian Prayer Program.
"We’re trying to get it as many places as we can," said James Wilhelm, financial secretary for Knights of Columbus Council 897 in Wayne County. "We are looking to put it wherever anybody would like to host it."
The Marian Prayer Program began in 1979 when the Knights began circulating sacred images of Mary throughout the nation and encouraging Catholics to use them as focal points for prayer. Every two years the Knights distribute to their councils a different image of Mary under one of her titles, such as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Charity. This prayer program has drawn more than 14 million people at approximately 132,000 prayer services held at various councils and parishes, according to information provided by the Knights of Columbus.
This latest installment of the Knights’ Marian Prayer Program is intended to bring Catholics together as a community and a world in need of Mary’s words of peace and unity, according to a 2011 statement from Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson.
"The Knights of Columbus has embarked on a pilgrimage with Our Lady of Guadalupe, bearing her image from council to council, from parish to parish, to spread her message and her love. Through this Marian Prayer Program, we have a chance to gather as a family before the mother of humanity and offer our prayers and intentions," Anderson said.
Not only are the current Marian icons reproductions of the image on St. Juan Diego’s tilma, but each one has touched the original tilma image, said Msgr. Eduardo Chavez Sanchez at the icon’s introduction in August 2011.
"Each image bears the signature of the rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and was sealed with a bit of soil from the first church at Tepeyac Hill, the very terrain on which Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego," said Msgr. Sanchez, who had been postulator of St. Juan Diego’s cause for canonization.
The icon that’s traveling throughout the Finger Lakes region has spent time in churches and schools, including St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva, Wilhelm said. The icon, which is four feet tall and more than two feet wide, was present at a pro-life prayer vigil held at St. Michael Church in Lyons last December, and was expected to be present at this year’s vigil on Dec. 1. A Cursillo group in Geneva hosted the icon earlier this fall, and Deacon Greg Kiley of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Lyons, Clyde and Savannah kept the icon in his home earlier this year.
"We did have one night when we had about 20 people come over. We prayed together with the image in the house," Deacon Kiley said, noting that those gathered at his house also watched a DVD about Our Lady of Guadalupe and the image on St. Juan Diego’s tilma.
The image, which hung in his family’s dining room, sparked many conversations about faith, miracles and saints, even amongst his grandchildren, he added.
Last December the Hispanic communities in Yates and Ontario counties incorporated the icon into its annual Guadalupe celebration, said Mercy Sister Kay Schwenzer, pastoral minister to the Hispanic communities in Yates, Ontario and Wayne counties. Each year on Dec. 4, members of the Hispanic communities begin a novena, which is held at a different house in Geneva or Penn Yan each night. They bring an icon or statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe — or both last year — to their gatherings, which are held each night until Dec. 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day.
"On the feast itself, we have las mananitas at 5 a.m. in St. Francis Church (in Geneva). It’s prayer sung to Mary in the morning on her special day. People come before they go to work," Sister Schwenzer said.
The festivities conclude with a Mass and celebration at 6 p.m., she added.
"For our Mexican population Our Lady of Guadalupe ranks very high, and so we do have this celebration," she said.
Tags: Mary, Wayne County News