At midnight Sunday night, Robin Miller was getting ready to help Niles police with traffic control duties. From 1 a.m until about 3:30 a.m., he blocked cars from turning on Milwaukee Avenue so that somewhere between 800 and 1,000 religious pilgrims could stream through.
The feast day of Our Lady of Guadelupe, Dec. 12, is a holiday dear to the hearts of Mexican Catholics. Groups of worshippers from many Chicago churches spent hours on their feet, walking past the Niles Police Department and other Niles landmarks to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadelupe at Maryville Academy, a Catholic institution in Des Plaines.
"The people were very peaceful. They were quietly singing and chanting," said Miller, a member of the CERT team, a group of trained citizens who assist police. He has helped control traffic for the Guadelupe procession, which includes everyone from babies in strollers to elderly worshippers, in previous years.
His wife Marianne, who is also on the CERT team and has helped direct traffic in previous years, said, "This is their big day. They had Masses planned throughout the day (at the shrine). These people are so devoted."
Karina Reyes, who works with the Our Lady of Guadelupe shrine at Maryville, said festivities planned there included fireworks, dances, live music and food in addition to numerous Masses in honor of Our Lady of Guadelupe. WGN TV coverage can be seen here.
"People want to give thanks to her for a miracle she did for them. It's a way of saying thanks," Reyes explained.
She added that Our Lady of Guadelupe appeared to a Mexican named Juan Diego centuries ago, performed miracles and asked him to build a church.
The Maryville shrine sent Patch a written history which explains that Joaquin Martinez, a local Catholic, acquired a statue of Our Lady of Guadelupe in Mexico around 1987 and helped launch a celebration of her feast day. The statue toured the Archdiocese of Chicago, but no churches agreed to create a home for it until Rev. John Smyth, then-director of Maryville (and now president of Notre Dame College Prep) arranged to place it in its own chapel at Maryville.
In 1996, according to the document, a distinguished Mexican priest brought an exact replica of the Our Lady of Guadelupe image and frame from Mexico to Maryville. As the first-ever such replica to leave Mexico, the shrine considered it a great honor. In emotional ceremonies, the replica was blessed and enshrined in a holy hill on the grounds.
In Sept. 2008, Cardinal Francis George designated 62.8 acres for the shrine, the document said in conclusion.