When Leonides Nieto was an infant she was gravely ill and near death. Her mother prayed to Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos (St. John of the Lakes) to intercede with Jesus on her daughter’s behalf, promising that if Leonides was healed, the family would leave a photo of the baby at the Virgin’s basilica in Jalisco, Mexico. “She actually saved me,” Nieto said of Mary. When Nieto’s mother died in 1994, all her siblings and her father traveled from Chicago to the basilica in Jalisco — a state in west central Mexico — and left the photo of Nieto as a baby. Nieto has had a strong devotion to the Virgin all of her life. She was one of hundreds who turned out to St. Joseph Parish, 4821 S. Hermitage Ave., for an Oct. 5-8 visit of not just the image of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, but also two other of Mexico’s famous Virgins — Our Lady of Zapopan (also known as Our Lady of Expectation) and Our Lady of Talpa (also known as Our Lady of the Rosary). The parish decided to arrange for the three Virgins, often called “sisters” or “cousins,” to visit the Midwest together for the first time for its 130th anniversary this year. All three statues are normally housed in their basilicas in Jalisco. Many of the immigrants who attend the parish hail from Jalisco. “We decided this whole year everything we’re doing is bigger and better,” said Mark Wojciechowski, one of the event’s organizers. “They do this in Jalisco where they have these three virgins together but here we’ve never done that.” The statue of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos often visits Chicago. “San Juan de los Lagos is basically number two to Our Lady of Guadalupe [in Mexico]. If you are in the south or north, whatever, San Juan de los Lagos is known,” Wojciechowski said. “That’s why we always have her.” The statues are made of wood, stand a little less than two-feet high and are garbed in elaborate robes. On this occasion, parishioners constructed wooden “houses” to carry the statues in processions around the neighborhood and for veneration in the church. All three statues are canonically crowned, a distinction given by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. It is usually bestowed upon popular devotions native to specific locations. The practice dates back to the 1600s. Devotion to Mary through these Virgins is strong and dates back centuries. “They come on their knees. It’s just showing love and respect to the Virgin, especially now, in the times that we’re living in, it’s crazier by the minute. The focus on this trip is humanity,” Wojciechowski said. “Just bringing back humanity for peace.” Organizers decorated the exterior of the church with blue and white streamers and paper flowers for the visit. People dressed in blue, the traditional color associated with Mary. Much like when the three Virgins come together in Jalisco, “it’s like a big party,” Wojciechowski said. Many people who attended the services at St. Joseph said they came asking for prayers or to thank Mary for her intercession in answered prayers. Crystal Garcia volunteered with her parents for crowd control. Her family doesn’t live in the neighborhood but attends the parish. “It means a lot to us,” Garcia, 19, a student at Malcolm X College, said of the visit of the Virgins. Her family has received many answers to prayers, including for her aunt, who was healed of cancer, she said.