By Fr. Sal Gonzalez, OMI, Director, Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows and King’s House Retreat Center at the Shrine
With a procession, novena prayers, and the Holy Mass presided over by His Excellency, Bishop Michael McGovern and concelebrated by the Oblate community at the Shrine, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows celebrated the blessing and enthronement of a replica image of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos. The original Shrine of San Juan de los Lagos is located in San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, México.
The Shrine Church was almost filled to capacity with people from across the St. Louis metro east communities. People of all ages and many families with children came to see and pray before the blessed and beloved image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The statue was acquired with the many donations from people of the area who wanted to have the blessed image at the shrine.
Bishop Michael McGovern presided and blessed the image from San Juan de los Lagos in Mexico. The image is an original replica used as a pilgrim virgin from the original Shrine in Mexico. The image comes to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows as a pilgrim who comes to stay. Our Lady comes to show us how to be Pilgrims of Hope in Communion, and the Mass of blessing and enthronement was precisely that: a moment of hope and communion with the people of God, the Oblates, and the Bishop of the local Church.
For Fr. Salvador Gonzalez, OMI Director of the Shrine, bringing the blessed image to the Shrine is rich in meaning. Getting the statue of Our Lady to the Shrine and giving her a permanent place at the Shrine is a continuation of a long history of the Missionary Oblates bringing this devotion to the people in the United States. In 1949, Father Jose Maria Azpiazu, OMI, aware of the people’s devotion to Our Lady, placed a replica of the Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos statue in his Parish in San Juan, Texas. As the number of pilgrims coming to the small church increased, Fr. Jose decided to build a shrine to the Virgen de San Juan, and the Basilica of San Juan del Valle was built.
A second reason for bringing the image to the Shrine is my spiritual connection with Fr. Pete Cortez, OMI (1944-1995), whose Oblate Cross I wear. I know that Fr. Pete was instrumental in welcoming pilgrims to the Shrine in San Juan, Texas; he was a man of hospitality and beloved by many pilgrims. I now can continue the ministry that Fr. Pete Cortez, OMI, did with much passion while alive.
We are in the last months of the jubilee year of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, marking the 400th anniversary of the first miracle attributed to her. The Blessed Mother will continue to be a sign of God’s love and care for the people of the Metro East for years to come.