Bishop Rojas: ‘Juan Diego is all of us’

By Michelle Martin
Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bishop Rojas: ‘Juan Diego is all of us’

The faithful process through Little Village with a statue of St. Juan Diego on Dec. 9. (Julie Jaidinger/Catolico)
The Tlacololeros, a traditional dance group, celebrated the Feast of San Juan Diego at Our Lady of Tepeyac in Chicago on Dec. 9 with Bishop Alberto Rojas and the neighboring parishes of Little Village. (Julie Jaidinger/Catolico)
The Tapia Family presented the nopal to Bishop Alberto Rojas during the Feast of San Juan Diego Mass at Our Lady of Tepeyac in Chicago on Dec. 9. (Julie Jaidinger/Catolico)
Francisco Ochoa celebrated the Feast of San Juan Diego at Our Lady of Tepeyac. (Julie Jaidinger/Catolico)

Hundreds of people crowded into Our Lady of Tepeyac Church Dec. 9 after processing through the Little Village neighborhood to show their devotion to St. Juan Diego, the Aztec Indian who received the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill in what its now Mexico City in 1531.

Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas, who was the main celebrant of Juan Diego’s feast day Mass, told those in attendance that the saint represents everyone.

“Juan Diego is all of us,” he said in Spanish. “He represents the marginalized, the abused.”

Bishop Rojas offered the end of his homily in English, telling the congregation that the feasts of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, come during Advent, a season of hope, and that the faithful must hold onto that hope during dark days.

“We belong to the church, which is here for everybody,” he said. “I know that for many right now, it feels that we are in the shadows, especially for people who do not have documents. You are most welcome with us in the church. We will always walk with you.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designated Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a day of prayer for immigrants and refugees.

Parishioners from Our Lady of Tepeyac, St. Agnes of Bohemia, Good Shepherd, Epiphany, Assumption and St. Roman started the evening with a pilgrimage, gathering at two points in December’s evening darkness, with both processions coming together at Our Lady of Tepeyac. The parishes are all part of Little Village, or La Villita, a community that is largely home to people from Mexico or their children and grandchildren.

Once they arrived at Our Lady of Guadalupe, there was music and Mexican dance from groups of children before the Mass, which started and ended with cheers for San Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe and their community, La Villita.

While churches that minister to Latino populations across the country have special devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims over a 24- hour period on her feast, the parishes in Little Village have long honored the man she appeared to.

“This is a tradition that we always did with our parents,” said Beatrice Gonzalez, 25, a parishioner at Good Shepherd Parish. She attended the pilgrimage and Mass with her mother and her sister Elizabeth, 11. “It’s something everybody looks forward to.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas, appeared to Juan Diego, who had become Christian, four times over four days in December of 1531. The apparition looked like an Aztec and spoke to Juan Diego in his own language, identified herself as the Blessed Virgin and asked him to deliver a message to the bishop: He should build a chapel for her, so that she could hear the cry of the poor and afflicted.

The bishop at first did not want to listen to a man of no standing, and then asked for a sign from Juan Diego. When he relayed that request to the lady, she made the roses bloom in December and told him to gather them in his cloak and take them to the bishop. He did so, and when emptied the roses from the cloak, the image of the lady remained.

The cloak is still displayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and the image has become one of the most revered and best known depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of Guadalupe bears within her the “Christ of forgiveness, peace and compassion,” Bishop Rojas said. “We are not alone. Don’t lose hope.”


  • bishops
  • rojas
  • juan diego
  • our lady of tepeyac
  • our lady of guadalupe

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