One determined year later, Bishop Rojas is leading a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) in Mexico City after being unable to attend in 2022 due to contracting COVID-19. Bishop Rojas and the pilgrims will be on their journey from Sunday, July 23- Saturday July 29.
On Thursday July 27, the pilgrims will visit the Shrine and Bishop Rojas will celebrate mass. A live stream of the mass can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/@BasilicadeGuadalupe
Clergy joining the Bishop on the pilgrimage this year include Father Emmanuel Ukaegbu Onuoha, Father Anthony Bui, Father Tomás Guillen, Deacon Guadalupe Ramirez, Deacon Jose Herrera, Deacon Vic Gonzalez, and Deacon Armando Servin.
The other pilgrims attending are:
Mary Asiong Abiaro, Connie S. Asiong, Paula St. Joseph Beauchamp, Wendy Lorraine Brady-Posjena, Densy Rjanto Chandra, Gregorius Mintono Chandra, Damianita Willkom Dyogi, Joseph Robert Gonzalez, Minvilu C. Gonzalez, Isabel Hedrick, Loretta Herrera, John Fulton Johnson, Laura Ann Johnson, Veronica Ladesma, Maria Guadalupe Lomeli, Neidin Islas Rodriguez Madeza, Philip Peter Margala, Theresa Regina Margala-Nalpon, Catherine Princess Mata, Mario Mata, Lupe Marie Olmedo, Miguel Angel Olmedo, Guenter Siegfried Posjena, Maria Rosaura Puga, Julie Ann Quintana, Lisa Gaye Rojas, Peter Jesus Rojas, Yolanda Servin, Miriam De Los Angeles Martinez Solano, Ricardo Fernando Solano, Ariel Alonso Tello, Felipa DeJesus Tello, Araceli Canchola Villarreal, and Myrna Lynne Willkom Chai.
Some of the other locations the pilgrims will be visiting include: The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary in Puebla, St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Shrine of Our Lady of Ocotlan, the Catholic Church of Santiago de Tlatelolco, and the original chapel on the exact site of the apparitions to Juan Diego and Santa Maria Tulpetlac Church.
The 2022 pilgrimage was intended to be a part of Bishop Rojas’ silver jubilee year celebrating 25 years of priesthood, but ultimately, he had to remain at home while the pilgrims embarked on their journey.
Although he was not able to join the pilgrimage in 2022, when the pilgrims reached the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and celebrated Mass there, Bishop Rojas offered some words of accompaniment that were read during the homily.
“I am with you in my heart,” Bishop Rojas wrote. “The blessed Mother of Guadalupe reminded us and assured us of her maternal love and care.”
Reflecting on this statement a year later, pilgrimage coordinator Densy Chandra remembered the impact that the Bishop’s words had on the pilgrims at that moment.
“Everyone was so moved that he was still missing us,” Chandra said.
Chandra said that the pilgrims did not let the absence of the Bishop in 2022 dampen their spirits and at the beginning of 2023, Bishop Rojas asked the pilgrims about possibly returning to the Basilica in the summer.
“At our reunion, which happened to be his birthday in January (2023), he did ask if we would like to have a make-up pilgrimage, I immediately said, ‘yes,’” Chandra said.
When asked what it means to her for Bishop Rojas to join this year’s pilgrimage, Chandra said, “It means to “complete the mission, to thank The Mother for Bishop Rojas. It’s a year later, but it’s okay because we are still thankful.”
One of the pilgrims attending this years’ pilgrimage is Dcn. Ramirez, St. Anthony Parish, Upland, who also attended the pilgrimage in 2022.
“I'm very excited that Bishop will be able to attend this pilgrimage and looking forward to sharing some good spiritual moments and assisting him in celebrating Mass,” he said.
Dcn. Ramirez remembers his experience visiting the Basilica last year as a moment that was hard to explain.
“Since the moment I started the process to join the pilgrimage there was a certain happiness in me, to the moment we got off the bus and started walking towards the Basilica I didn't even want to stop and take the group picture it was taking too long, I just needed to be in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Dcn. Ramirez said.
After Dcn. Ramirez finally reached the Basilica, the next thing he recalled was being at the altar to assist in the Mass celebration.
“For a moment, I forgot where I was standing and I slowly turned to my left because I felt like something or someone was looking at me and there she was a few feet away from where I was standing, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Dcn. Ramirez recalled. “The excitement was so much that when I was reading the Gospel in front of about 8,000 people give or take, my voice started to shake and I could not control it, I literally stated to cry with emotion.”
As Dcn. Ramirez prepares to journey back to Mexico City to visit the Basilica, this time with Bishop Rojas, he recommends that others take their own pilgrimage, especially those who have a connection and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“She is there; It's not a portrait and she will help you understand the mystery behind her apparitions to San Juan Diego, and strengthen your faith,” Dcn. Ramirez said.
We pray that Bishop Rojas and the pilgrims remain safe and sound on their pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Elena Macias is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE.