Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Chitown, La Morenita as Mother-Lode

Much could be said on this Guadalupe Night, but from the outskirts of Chicago, let this one piece suffice: already the hands-down home of the Stateside church's largest annual gathering of all, the Maryville sanctuary that drew some 130,000 Guadalupanos last time around was expecting as many as 200,000 pilgrims for the latest edition of its 48-hour festival (photos).

And, church, if that doesn't take your breath away, nothing ever will.

Confessions are being heard round-the-clock as torch-runs, fireworks and dances fill the background... and for just the first time, the hometown ordinary (and US bishops' chief) Cardinal Francis George will celebrate today's noontime Mass at the fiesta, which'll be aired and streamed by the local Relevant Radio affiliate.

Then again, the Tribune notes that George's Des Plaines debut will be the lone Anglophone portion of the celebrations.

Despite many attendees who either walk or bike the 10 miles from the city even amid the frigid temps, traffic backups of a mile or two around the site tend to happen in the wee hours of this night. Given the crush of people, the roads immediately surrounding the grounds are invariably closed, and drivers are rerouted to the parking lots of the nearby parishes.

In an interview with the Windy City's church weekly, the rector of Maryville disclosed that the event's total cost ran, at most, $40,000.

Its effect and significance, however: Priceless.

PHOTO: Lane Christiansen/
Chicago Tribune