Image of Virgin Mary removed in Des Plaines to discourage annual pilgrimage

Another COVID cancelation, this one affecting hundreds of thousands of Chicago area Catholics.

Archdiocese officials on Friday removed the image of the Virgin Mary at Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Des Plaines, as they are hoping to discourage the annual pilgrimage of thousands to the shrine.

Every December 12th, as many as 300,000 pilgrims, mostly Mexican Americans, visit the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Des Plaines to say a prayer or give a small gift to the Virgin Mary.

But this year, with coronavirus numbers spiking, the event has been canceled.

“It’s irresponsible for us to have such a massive event and not have a super spreader event that goes with it,” said Fr. Esequiel Sanchez.

So on Friday with prayers and music, the image of the Virgin Mary was removed from the shrine and locked in a nearby chapel, and the public entrances to the shrine have been blocked.

“We’re asking people to celebrate this feast at home this year, and participate in the various online services that we’ll have,” Sanchez said.

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It is disappointing for Catholics like Ramon Servin, who has made the pilgrimage with his daughters every year.

“I can’t believe we’re going through this. We pray that the cure comes out and we don’t have to be wearing masks and seeing the Virgin Mary come down,” Servin said.

A bouquet of Christmas poinsettias has replaced the image of the shrine in the glass case. The Virgin Mary will be returned to the shrine in a special service Sunday morning.