ORLANDO | In its third year running, Caravana Guadalupana: Our Way to Jesus, makes its pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Dec. 10. The caravan of cars from more than 20 parishes began small during the COVID pandemic and has expanded, requiring more space for vehicles to park at its conclusion.
Basilica rector, Father Anthony Aarons looked forward to hosting the event honoring the nation’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, especially for the arrival of those in traditional Aztec dress.
Formerly, the caravan ended at St. James Cathedral in Orlando, parading through its small parking lot as vehicles received a final benediction. If people wanted to stop and pray before the Blessed Sacrament, they had to park one block away. “The success of the Caravana Guadalupana continues to draw more people to this special Marian feast,” said Father Miguel González, rector of St. James Cathedral. “The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe not only provides a bigger space for the caravan to make its visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe, but also is a proper site to make pilgrimage to our Blessed Mother’s house.”
The idea of a caravan of cars came to Nilda Fonseca when the pandemic hit. For 18 years her friend, Lisette Saint-Hilaire, and her team directed the re-enactment of Juan Diego’s encounter with the Virgin Mary on the hill of Tepeyac, Mexico. The re-enactment was the legacy of Saint-Hilaire’s brother, who passed away when she was young. The pandemic made this re-enactment impossible. That’s when the idea of a caravan of cars on pilgrimage to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, came to Nilda Fonseca in a dream. Saint-Hilaire loved the idea, as did her team. This year, the move to the basilica called for a name change, from Caravana Guadalupana to “pilgrimage” as its destination is a national shrine. Saint-Hilaire hopes this pilgrimage, with its colorful floats and people praying the rosary, will lead to the conversion of many here in central Florida.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, December 15, 2023