Jodi Marlin
August 23, 2022 // Diocese

Warsaw Pilgrimage Site Receives Hundreds Under Our Lady’s Mantle

Jodi Marlin

Marian pilgrimage sites around the world draw large crowds of the faithful, and on Aug. 13 the one in Warsaw swelled with a similar presence. For the 12th year, hundreds of people of all ages worshipped, adored, fulfilled promises, and grew in fellowship under the mantle of Mary at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, offering a eucharistic liturgy and a grand celebration in thankfulness for prayers heard.

Click here for more photos from the event.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was built for just such a purpose, to draw from across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend those with a devotion to her 1531 apparition on Tepeyac Hill outside of Mexico City, Mexico. Even today, the Patroness of the Americas is an inextricable part of the faith of many families who come from Latin America, where the sacrifice of making a pilgrimage is common and sometimes even made on foot or on one’s knees.

Pilgrims from Goshen approach the shrine via S.R. 15 at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. They, too, attended a Mass celebrated at the church immediately upon their arrival. The rest of the day included food, music, dance performances and fellowship.

The idea to celebrate the shrine’s patroness in the summertime instead of on her feast day of Dec. 12 grew out of a Hispanic lay leadership training program offered several years ago at the University of Notre Dame, the Instituto Cultural Liderazgo en el Medio Oeste (Midwest Cultural Leadership Institute). The founders of the Feria Guadalupana, Leonardo and Elvia Patiño, Manuel Gutierrez, Irma Cantero, and Sister Joan Hastreiter, felt that by scheduling it in the summer, the faith community would be able to enjoy what is prohibitive in the winter: showing their love for her in traditional Mexican fashion, including those pilgrimages as well as a joyous communal meal, music, folkloric dancing, and hours of fellowship that embrace the entire family. The event has also come to serve as the parish’s largest annual fundraising event and draws large crowds and representation from the surrounding community.

Photos by Jodi Marlin
Volunteers carry the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the outdoor Mass stage back into the sanctuary for yet another Mass Saturday, Aug. 13. Three Masses took place in succession Aug. 13 as large groups of pilgrims would arrive on foot or bicycle for the Feria Guadalupana.

Prior to construction of the shrine in 2005, Catholics in Elkhart County who wanted to worship in Spanish had to travel to Milford, where the first planting of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish was located at that time. The three faith communities retain a close relationship, which is why parishioners from those and other Hispanic parishes were heavily represented at the Feria Guadalupana and why it began the night before for many, including the group that set out Friday night on foot from St. John the Evangelist Church in Goshen. Those pilgrims walked through the night and arrived at the shrine just after dawn. Another two groups made the trip on bicycle, one leaving from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elkhart and another from St. John the Evangelist.

Carlos Ortega led the Goshen bicyclists, and his fellow riders were eager to show their love for Our Lady by biking for four hours to the celebration. He noted that even children as young as six and eight participated in the ride, which took place on less-heavily traveled country roads until it reached the intersection of State Road 15 and County Road 250. 

Participants worship during an outdoor Mass culminating a 30-mile bike ride from Elkhart. There were three eucharistic liturgies held Aug. 13 at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Warsaw: Each one was celebrated upon the arrival of pilgrims who had walked or biked for miles to fulfill promises they had made to her.

“We do it for personal reasons, to give thanks with all of our heart for all that she and Our Lord have given us – for all the blessings we have; for work, for life, health, family, faith. We’re grateful, and we want to show that,” Ortega said.

A Mass was celebrated for each group of pilgrims as they arrived at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon. Referring to their fervent devotion during the 10 a.m. Mass, pastor Father Constantino Rocha acknowledged the profoundness of their intentions – the prayers, petitions, and promises they had carried with them along the route, “confident in that which Our Lady of Guadalupe said to Juan Diego when she appeared to him: ‘Am I not here, I who am your mother? What are you afraid of?’ Now, each one of us opens our heart and shares with her our fears, our prayers, the acts of thankfulness we have brought her this morning.”

The parish also marked its 50th anniversary on July 10. In observance of that milestone and in support of the Feria Guadalupana, community members and organizations like the Bowen Center, several area colleges, Heartline Pregnancy Center, local realtors, and the Warsaw Police Department added to the festive atmosphere with booths and banners of support and giveaways. To feed the weary pilgrims, more than a dozen tables of tacos, flavored waters, corn, tamales, and desserts were donated by parishioners or provided by local stores and prepared by parish families. 

As the afternoon wore on, the liturgies gave way to music, folk dancing, and the general comradery of a family gathered out of a holy love.

At one of three Masses celebrated Aug. 13 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Warsaw, pilgrims give thanks to Mary for promises fulfilled. As it was the weekend before the feast of the Assumption, the shrine hosted an all-day event to allow those with devotions to her to show their love and appreciation and implore her intercession.

Leo Patiño, the son of Leonardo and Elvia Patiño, has played a pivotal role in helping his parents pull the festival together for years. It’s an incredible gathering of friends for the area’s Hispanic faith communities and something everyone looks forward to, he said, even though its continual growth presents challenges. “Sometimes we just can’t keep up; we need more help.”

Cayo Gonzalez and Laureano Herrera weren’t complaining. “We’re just grateful to be here, to honor her in this way,” Gonzalez said, leaning against his bike at the end of the 10 a.m. outdoor Mass. He and Herrera, parishioners of St. Adalbert Parish in South Bend, were part of the group that rode 30 miles from Elkhart to the shrine to fulfill a promise each had made to the Virgin.

Leticia Robles and Benjamin Rubio of LaGrange biked in with the same group from Elkhart, and for a similar reason. 

“I’ve had a devotion to Our Lady since I was little,” Robles said. “We feel like this is a small sacrifice for all the prayers she answers, all the ways she is with us and protects us and draws us closer to the Lord.”

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