Located in the Parish of the Immaculate Conception BVM, Allentown is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “a shrine is considered a place where divine grace is manifested in a very special way—a place where the human and divine world intersect.”
“The Conference of Bishops is given the pastoral oversight for national shrines; its approval is required for a shrine to be called national.”
The Archbishop of Mexico City proposed a National Shrine Center to Bishop Sidney Metzger of El Paso, Texas in 1958, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was established in 1974 in the Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Allentown. The parish was founded in 1857 by Bishop (now St.) John Neumann.
Mary, our Blessed Mother, appeared to an indigenous man, Juan Diego in Tepeyac, Mexico under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December of 1531. Her apparition occurred during a time of oppression and human sacrifice to pagan gods. Her words to Juan Diego ring true to all her children today:
“You know for certain, littlest of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, mother of the True God through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. I wish and intensely desire that in this place my sanctuary be erected. Here, I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my health, and my protection to the people.”
“I am your merciful Mother. The merciful Mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of all those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me.”
“Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy, and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities, and misfortunes.”
Mary asked Juan Diego to tell his Bishop to build a shrine on Tepeyac Hill, and the Bishop asked him for a sign to accompany the request. Juan Diego returned to see Mary, who instructed him to go to Tepeyac Hill and pick flowers. It was winter, a time when flowers did not bloom. Juan Diego obeyed and found flowers, including Castilian roses, which were not grown in Mexico at the time. He picked up the roses and took them to Mary, who arranged them inside his tilma, a cloak-like poncho, and headed to see the Bishop.
Upon arriving to the Bishop, he opened his tilma, and saw that an image of Mary had miraculously imprinted on it. This was the sign that the Bishop needed to confirm Mary’s request.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where the tilma is displayed now, was built in 1973. It is the most visited of all the Marian shrines.
Juan Diego was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1990 and canonized a saint on July 31, 2002.
“The distinguishing mark of a shrine is that it is a place to which the faithful make pilgrimages,” according to USCCB. A pilgrimage is a journey made to a holy place, symbolizing our life on Earth as we journey into Eternity.
One of the reasons Immaculate Conception was chosen as the National Shrine is because it is near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where a pilgrimage can be easily made.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego on Dec. 9, the feast of the Immaculate Conception at the time. Interestingly, a Parish dedicated to her Immaculate Conception is the place that was chosen as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Pope Pius XII named Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas in 1946. Even though her apparition occurred in Mexico, she is the mother of all and Patroness of North, Central, and South America. Since Allentown was not in a predominantly Spanish-speaking area, the invitation was for the community to realize that Our Lady of Guadalupe is for everyone, not just for Latinos.
In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Unborn. In her image, she is pregnant with the Infant Jesus. In her message, she calls herself the Merciful Mother of all people. She came to a society that did not value human life, but after she came and left her image, people’s values changed. Within eight years after her appearance, over eight million Mexicans converted and received baptism. Just as human sacrifice ended in Mexico after her appearance, we hope that by her intercession, the sacrifice of unborn babies by abortion will also end. (CNA)
“Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?”
During one of Mary’s apparitions to Juan Diego, she spoke to him in these loving words. Her voice invites us to come to her, to seek her protection and intercession.
Father John Gibbons, pastor of Immaculate Conception, shared that someone recently came to the shrine because of health problems in her family. She felt led to ask Our Lady of Guadalupe for help, and her family member was cured.
During this summer, consider making a pilgrimage to the shrine and praying before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Three pictures were taken of the original in Mexico, and the best picture of the three is found over a side altar in Immaculate Conception, said Sister Mary Martha Zammatore, member of the School Sisters of St. Francis and liaison to prison ministry in the Diocese.
Everyone is welcome to participate in the Guadalupe Perpetual Novena, which is prayed in community on Mondays after the 8 a.m. Mass. You can also participate in the Rosary on Tuesdays before the 8 a.m. Mass.
Most specially, a novena is prayed nine days before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, and a Mass is celebrated each year on or near that date accompanied by mariachis, Mexican food, and dances, said Miriam Bernal, member of the Guadalupe Committee in charge of planning the events around the feast.