by Angélica Peña (English translation by Rebel Girl)
NEW YORK -- After 70 days and a 5,000 kilometer journey the pilgrimage of the Antorcha Guadalupana which left the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City arrived in St. Patrick's Cathedral in this city.
The "light of hope" left Mexico on October 3rd and went through dozens of towns before arriving in downtown Manhattan, gathering about 700 runners who joined in the relay that went from the state of New Jersey over the Washington Bridge into New York State.
The runners reached Central Park where they were received by local authorities and representatives of the Mexican government in New York.
Later, the torch was carried with groups of Mexican folk dancers through the streets of downtown Manhattan in low temperatures.
The fervor of faith was reflected in the expressions of those who surrounded the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.
After the arrival of the torch and the images, a more than two hour long Mass began in which some 6,000 people participated, according to the coordinators of the event.
"Millions of Mexicans and devotees of the brown virgin are celebrating Her feast today, thousand of pilgrims have come to Her shrine in homage to Her, and millions of Catholics and non-Catholics are hearing about the miracles of the Mother," said Josu Iriando, bishop for the Bronx, who presided at the Mass.
Among the prayers offered during the ceremony, one stood out that was for immigrants who have lost their work and are going through difficult times because of the recession so that their faith will strengthen them to resist and overcome their situation.
The "Amen" in the church was unanimous after one of the petitions to the Virgin that referred to legislators in this country approving immigration reform soon.
Cristina Robinson, who lives in Houston and accompanied the entire journey of the torch, said that for seven years she has been part of the pilgrimage and that her motive is the struggle for immigration reform.
"We are seeking reform and for the families to be united. If our countrymen cannot go to see the Virgin, we bring Her to them," said Robinson.
Sandra Silva, the 20-year old captain of the relay, said that the hardest part was watching the people cry every time the Virgin left to continue Her trek, "I am sad too after being with Her for 40 days. I have a lot of faith in Her," she added.
The Tepeyac Association began the torch relay at a local level in 1998 and in 2002 decided to involve the communities of devotees both in Mexico and in the United States to create a pilgrimage that unites the two countries of the north.
"I am praying for us to have work and fair wages. I am sure that the Virgin will give us Her protection and help us to accomplish our goals," said Raul Parra who came from the town of Laguna Seca, in the Mexican state of Guerrero four years ago.
In the middle of the ceremony, dozens of children, mostly dressed as Juan Diego or the Virgin Mary, were blessed by the bishops.
After the Mass, the images and dancers walked several blocks to the front of the United Nations Headquarters where they danced in honor of the Virgin and from which dozens of lights of hope from the torch departed to different parishes in the city.