Earlier this month 21 members of the Western Association participated in the Guadalupe Pilgrimage to Mexico City. There were last minute changes to the itinerary due to the major earthquake which struck Mexico City on September 19th but this only served to bring us closer to our confreres of the Mexican Association and the numerous people we would serve by standing with them during these times of difficulty and loss. As we do each year, we participated in various opportunities of hands on service with children and families. The Annual Day of the Sick is always very moving as we engage with those who come seeking comfort and healing from their Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe. We were introduced to a project which serves young mothers recovering from HIV. There a presentation on the goals and changes brought about as a result of this very successful program. Then, each of us were able to spend time with some of the mothers and their newborns. Their stories were filled with great sadness and loss. However, the project enabled and motivated each of them to survive their illness by strict adherence to medical treatment, good nutrition and proper infant care. Their love for their children and the encouragement they each receive from their peer support group was nothing short of inspirational. Later in the week we worked together preparing earthquake relief bags of food staples, toiletries and baby products. We each reflected on the fact that we had been greatly blessed to have been called to serve in this manner as there remain tens of thousands of people affected by the earthquake who are still in need of food and assistance.

All of this work was part of an organized effort to reach out as members of the Order of Malta to serve and to live our charism. And yet it was one very special event that we all shared in which reinforced the belief of having been personally called by Our Lady to participate in this year’s Pilgrimage.  We were taken up, behind the main altar of the Basilica where each of us were able to stand in incredible proximity to Our Lady’s image for a private moment of prayer and reflection with Her. She touched our hearts as only a Mother can do and we walked away blessed, inspired, and deepened in our faith.  This was truly the essence of the Pilgrimage.

¡ Que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

Alma Arredondo, DM