As the rain fell on Dec. 14, hundreds dressed in ponchos embroidered with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe took to the streets of Washington, D.C., with raincoats and umbrellas, joining in joyful songs and prayers to Our Lady during the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Walk with Mary. Sponsored by the archdiocese’s Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach, the Walk with Mary is a pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Brookland neighborhood. 

Following the two-mile walk, nearly 2,000 people gathered in the National Shrine for the rosary prayed in seven languages, and a Mass celebrated by Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory.

“Today is a joyful manifestation of love to Our Lady,” said Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, who helped lead the procession and delivered the homily at the Mass. 

Participants arrive at the National Shrine and watch as a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe is carried into the basilica for Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec man, five times in December of 1531 near Mexico City, at a place where an ancient Aztec temple stood. She asked St. Juan Diego to tell the bishop of Mexico City that a church should be built on that spot. When the bishop asked for a sign from the woman claiming to be the Blessed Virgin, St. Juan Diego arrived with his tilma, a traditional outer garment, filled to the brim with roses from Our Lady. As the roses fell at the feet of the bishop, an image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared on the tilma of St. Juan Diego. The image has remained on the garment, which is located today at the shrine in Mexico City. The Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. 

Estella Fatu Kargbo, a graduate of Our Lady of Guadalupe Secondary Vocational School in Lusnar, Sierra Leone, attended the Walk with Mary with a group of her former classmates and fellow alumni of the school, including Hajaratu Evelyn Decey. A member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, Kargbo said she particularly loves the significance of Our Lady appearing as an Aztec mother.

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville helps lead the Dec. 14 Walk with Mary that included a procession through the streets of Washington and a Mass at the National Shrine to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

“I love the procession,” she said. Kargbo and her group wore blue sweatshirts with the name of their school and an image of Our Lady printed on the front. 

Along the pilgrimage colorful roses, candles and balloons held by faithful pilgrims filled the grey rainy sky. At the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, children decorated tilmas of their own to wear during the procession. Readers shared meditations in Spanish along the way to the National Shrine, describing the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego and praying for particular intentions.

Traditional Aztec dancers perform before the Dec. 14 Mass at the National Shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

The bilingual nature of the event was meaningful to Carolina Turcios-Sorto, a member of St. Catherine Laboure Church in Wheaton, Maryland, who said that this was the second Walk with Mary she attended. “You can invite whomever and as many people as you want to,” she said. Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness of the Americas, “takes care of all of us” Turcios-Sorto added.

An actor portrays St. Juan Diego, the peasant who saw Our Lady of Guadalupe and whose tilma bore the miraculous image of Our Lady.  (CS photos/Andrew Biraj)

“We come together to show devotion to our wonderful mother,” she said. “(Our Lady) is loved by the archdiocese.”

In his homily, Bishop Dorsonville spoke about living out the call of Our Lady of Guadalupe today. 

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory distributes Holy Communion Dec. 14 during the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception following the annual Walk with Mary procession from the Shrine of the Sacred Heart.  (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

“We have come together walking as one people,” he said. “... We cannot be afraid of the human encounter that all other cultures are calling for you to participate in the middle of our families, our parishes, and our archdiocese. 

A woman prays during Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

“Our Lady of Guadalupe…calls us to be instruments of her son, Jesus Christ…to the lives of those who suffer,” the bishop added. “... We’re not going to fix the problems of the world; however... we can be an example for others to follow.”

Earlier in the morning before the procession began, Bishop Dorsonville met with several “Dreamers” at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. He spoke to those young adults in Spanish about how the Blessed Virgin Mary brings a positive message of hope to immigrants. The future of their protected status under the DACA program is uncertain as related cases wind their way through the courts and lawmakers have not found agreement on immigration reform.

“I want to ask young dreamers to respect the laws, avoid problems and think about their families before making a decision,” he said. “... Let’s have faith that everything will change.” 

Ariadna Cordova, a high school junior, listened to Bishop Dorsonville’s message to the young immigrants. She shared that this was her third Walk with Mary. 

“I think it's beautiful that all the churches come together as a family,” she said. Cordova said her grandmother taught her the prayers of the rosary and is her “inspiration to be around the Church.”

Sister Ann Howard, a sister of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who works at Trinity Washington University with many “Dreamer” students and DACA recipients, said she sees Mary as “such a model of standing with the people… the poor, as in Guadalupe.”

“We try to accompany people in this world (as she did),” the religious sister said. 

Bishop Dorsonville told the dreamers and their families that there is reason to be hopeful. 

“We have to be positive, we have to pray and not lose faith,” he said. “God does not abandon us, and we are sure that in 2020 there will be good news. The Church always accompanies you on this difficult path and the Virgin Mary is next to you.”