Published February 15, 2007
The Archdiocese of Atlanta invites Catholics to join a pilgrimage April 22-28 to Mexico and its Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will celebrate a Mass alongside a Mexican cardinal and bishops and bless several Marian images to be displayed in churches of North Georgia.
Those joining the pilgrimage will be nourished through daily Mass at this and other historic shrines. They can also savor the country’s rich blend of indigenous and Spanish cultural heritage as they ascend Mexico’s highest mountain to experience the National Monument of Christ the King, take a leisurely gondola ride through the canals of Xochimilco, climb the Teotihuacan pyramids and explore the Spanish colonial city of Guanajuato north of Mexico City.
The bilingual trip will initiate a period of reflection and education in the archdiocese on Mary’s role in Catholicism, which will culminate at the end of the year with the coronation of the Patroness of the Americas for the archdiocese and renewal of its consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
At the end of the Eucharistic Congress on June 9, Archbishop Gregory will bless the Marian images from Mexico. Each image will be displayed for a week at a church in a designated region of the archdiocese before moving to another parish in that region. Catechesis will be offered through the Office of Religious Education and Faith Formation in parishes on Marian devotion, Mary in the Bible, church doctrine and history, and on the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, using speakers, interactive and print materials and videos. And on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory will lead a ceremony to crown Our Lady of Guadalupe and renew the consecration of the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Father Jose Duvan, director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry and a trip leader, has worked with the Mexican clergy to arrange the liturgy at the basilica in Mexico City. On a visit there last November, he said, Cardinal Norberto Rivera-Carrera was very pleased about this Marian project and offered to celebrate Mass for the pilgrims. Father Duvan believes this Mass will be the spiritual zenith of the trip and said that Mexican immigrants in Atlanta are inviting their family members to join the pilgrims at the liturgy. He celebrated Mass there on the earlier trip and recalled his awe in standing on the main altar at the church in which is enshrined the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that miraculously appeared on the tilma of Mexican Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531.
During the four apparitions Mary instructed the Indian to ask the local bishop to have a church built there in her honor. The clergyman eventually responded after seeing the miraculous image and had a church built on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, near which today stands the basilica.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was designated Patroness of the Americas by Pope Pius XII in 1946.
“The religious experience with the Mother of God in this basilica—we don’t have any words to describe this experience … to know and feel first the grace of our Lord and second the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For me it was an opportunity to renew my priesthood and my commitment to this local church in Atlanta, especially to attend to our immigrants and to love more and more the Mother of God,” Father Duvan said. “If people have devotion to holy Mary, they can feel in the basilica the protection of God and Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s just a great religious experience with the Mother of God.”
The trip will be conducted in both Spanish and English, and liturgies will be interpreted as needed. It includes six nights of hotel accommodations, Mass daily, 11 meals, roundtrip airport transfers in Mexico and luxury coach for all sightseeing and touring. There will be guided sightseeing tours and visits to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, Religious Museum, Monument of the Offerings, Plaza de las Americas and a gondola ride on the canals of Xochimilco. Archbishop Gregory will celebrate two Masses. The services of a professional Mexican tour manager will be available throughout the trip, and hotel porterage for one piece of luggage.
The cost per person with double room occupancy is $1,475, not including airfare which will be calculated after 32 passengers are registered. Estimated plane cost is $500 to $600 per person.
The itinerary is as follows: Pilgrims will fly to Mexico City and will transfer to the hotel by private motor coach. On Monday, April 23, they will visit the old and new Basilica of Guadalupe and the chapel on Tepeyac Hill. They will have a buffet lunch at a local restaurant and then continue to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan for sightseeing. They will return to Mexico City for Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gregory at the Cathedral Metropolitan. Dinner will be at Focolare Restaurant with a live show of traditional Mexican music and dances.
On April 24, pilgrims will return to the shrine of Guadalupe to visit the Religious Museum, Monument of the Offerings, Indian Chapel and the Plaza de las Americas. There will be a Mass with Archbishop Gregory, Cardinal Rivera-Carrera and bishops at the basilica, during which the Marian images will be blessed. The liturgy will be followed by a pilgrims reception and a scenic trip north to Guanajuato, where they will dine and spend the night.
On April 25 pilgrims will travel to the top of the highest mountain in Central Mexico and visit the National Monument of Christ the King, built during the terror of religious persecution in Mexico to proclaim the divine royalty of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the geographic center of the country. Pope John Paul II canonized the young martyrs of “Cristo Rey” in May 2000, and their pictures are displayed on the walls of the shrine.
On April 26 participants will attend Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, which contains a seventh-century hand-carved image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel given to Mexico by King Phillip II of Spain. This is the oldest Catholic statue in the Americas. Travelers will then return to Mexico City.
On April 27 there will be Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Then pilgrims will enjoy lunch and a gondola ride on the canals of Xochimilco, “the Floating Gardens.” There will be a farewell dinner at the elegant El Lago Restaurant before departing the next day.
Father Duvan is excited about the pilgrimage and the subsequent activities, which will deepen appreciation of Mary. He noted that Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a pregnant image of Mary, upholds the value of the unborn, and that many Hispanic Catholics from throughout Latin America already have increasing devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe through the heavy Mexican presence in North Georgia.
“It’s important because Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of the Americas, from Latin America,” he said. “Day by day devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is increasing in all our countries.”