History of the Shrine

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois, began with very humble origins.

In 1987, Mr. Joaquín Martínez acquired a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe during a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. When the statue arrived in Chicago, Mr. Martinez and a group of devotees called “Friends of Our Lady of Guadalupe” decided to begin a mission whereby the image began a pilgrimage to several parishes and family homes to encourage devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Chicago.

At the beginning of this mission, which coincided with the Marian Year proclaimed by Pope St. John Paul II, Fr. Robert Harne blessed the statue during a Mass that was held outdoors at Lake Opeka Park (Des Plaines) on June 14, 1987.

In June 1988, in search of a permanent place for the veneration of the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fr. John P. Smyth, President of Maryville Academy, welcomed the image and its faithful devotees. On July 4, 1988, the statue was brought to Maryville Academy with the blessing of Most Rev. Placido Rodríguez, O.C.M, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

On December 12, 1995, Fr. John Smyth, Fr. David Ryan and Fr. Rafael Orozco inaugurated the construction of an outdoor shrine modeled after the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City. The outdoor shrine, known as “El Cerrito”, became the main devotional area for the veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On November 24, 1996, a digital replica of the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was received at “El Cerrito”. This was the first replica to officially be sent to an international destination from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Fr. Jose Quintana, a priest of the Diocese of Grand Rapids (Michigan) and devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe, accompanied the people in receiving the image upon its arrival from Mexico.

In June 1997, Msgr. Esteban Martínez, Rector of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico, and the Basilica Choir, were present to bless and name this site as the “Cerrito del Tepeyac de Chicago”. During the ceremony, Msgr. Martínez poured soil brought from the original Cerro del Tepeyac in Mexico City, and also blessed and enthroned the image of Our Lady in the new Cerrito. This important visit consolidated a significant and permanent relationship between this site and the Basilica of Mexico as this site was granted the faculty of being a place where pilgrims can fulfill their pledges or promises to Our Lady of Guadalupe as if they were being fulfilled at the Basilica of Mexico.

In 2001, a replica of the famous sculpture at the Basilica of Mexico, known as “The Offering” by the sculptor AGD Mendoza, was brought to the Cerrito and solemnly blessed by Most Rev. John R. Manz, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The sculpture is installed outdoors on the cerrito. The height of the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe is approximately 12 feet and the weight is approximately 2,200 pounds. The height of the statue of St. Juan Diego is approximately 6 feet and the weight is approximately 800 pounds.

In 2008, Fr. Miguel Martínez Figueroa was appointed the first Director of the Cerrito del Tepeyac de Chicago.

On May 3, 2008, Most Rev. Gustavo Garcia Siller, MSpS., Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, blessed the sculpture of “The Apostle’s Cross”, which was installed in the plaza of the Cerrito. “The Apostles Cross” is an artistic representation of the vision received by the Mexican mystic, Concepción Cabrera de Armida, and the spirituality of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

On September 3, 2008, Cardinal Francis George O.M.I, Archbishop of Chicago, designated 62.5 acres of land to begin the formal establishment of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On January 1, 2013, Cardinal George canonically declared that the “Cerrito del Tepeyac” would be known and formally established as the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe; and, he appointed Rev. Marco Mercado as its first Rector. Fr. Mercado worked energetically to restore and update the onsite facilities that were dedicated to the Shrine and he undertook an extensive study for a strategic plan for the Shrine.

By 2013, the Shrine had become the most visited shrine in the USA dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the second most visited in the world after the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico.

In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Most Rev. Blase J. Cupich as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago. And, on December 12, 2015, he celebrated his first feast of Guadalupe at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Throughout this feast day celebration, the Shrine welcomed over 350,000 pilgrims and visitors. The news media broadcasted the hopeful message of Guadalupe throughout the country and the world in recognition of this great manifestation of faith and devotion on behalf of the immigrant community and the devotees of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On March 1, 2016, Fr. Esequiel Sanchez was appointed as Rector of the Shrine by His Eminence Blase Cardinal Cupich. Ordained to the priesthood in 1995, Fr. Sanchez has more than 20 years of experience in pastoral ministry and ecclesial administration.  With great devotion and dedication, he is continuing the mission and development of the Shrine as begun by his predecessors and the devoted supporters and friends of the Shrine.

In 2017, Fr. Sanchez and Council Members of the Shrine relaunched the campaign and approved the building project for a new chapel dedicated to St. Joseph, Husband of Mary and Foster Father of Jesus. The Chapel of St. Joseph is expected to open in spring 2018.

The history of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe remains young and vibrant. Everyone is invited—pilgrims, visitors, families, friends, neighbors—to be part of this living story that proclaims the faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe.