Kim Nguyen/El Centinela
Aztec dancers perform in the plaza at the Grotto for dedication of a new shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Kim Nguyen/El Centinela

Aztec dancers perform in the plaza at the Grotto for dedication of a new shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

With tears in her eyes, Teresa Rodríguez of St. Anne Parish in Gresham stood inside a new shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Grotto in Northeast Portland. A native of Guatemala, she has a lifelong devotion. 

“She is my Mother and made me think about my mother back in Guatemala,” Rodríguez said. “She is old and I pray today for her health and ask for time to see her again. I’m emotional because it is very special to have our Virgin of Guadalupe here.”

Oct. 29 was a stunning moment of faith at the Grotto— and a celebration many wanted to join. Hundreds gathered to dedicate a clifftop shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. It was a significant moment for Hispanics, who now have a place of prayer at the famous Catholic site. 

They join Filipinos, Vietnamese and Poles, who in past years have built small national shrines honoring Mary as they understand, experience and love her.

Servite Father Jack Topper was longtime executive director and then rector of the Grotto, known officially as the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. The small shrines have been a longtime dream of the priest, who has just retired.

“The Grotto is like a microcosm of the entire church in the U.S.” Father Topper says. “It is a place for everyone and today I’m happy to see this shrine that reflects the multicultural aspect of our church.”

He says Our Lady of Guadalupe has long been special to him, in large part through the influence of the Oblates of St. Martha, Mexican nuns who serve at the Grotto and have a deep devotion to the one they know as “The Virgin.”

The Guadalupe shrine, built by a coalition led by the Knights of Columbus and chief organizer Doug Klein, is one of about 100 statues and shrines at the Grotto. She stands among figures like St. Joseph and St Francis.

Father Topper wants Hispanics, a major Catholic group in Oregon, to feel at home at the Grotto. 

It was important to have Father Topper attend the dedication, says Jesse Villarreal, Hispanic outreach coordinator for the Knights of Columbus in Oregon.

Héctor Hernández and Mark Brody created the mosaics of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Juan Diego and the bishop in Mexico City who was skeptical at first during the apparitions in 1531. 

Villarreal says the images tell the story that is an important part of Mexican culture — and now of all the Americas. 

“She is our Mother,” he explained in Spanish. “Now our Mother will be here. As a Hispanic, it made me very proud to be here, to witness this special occasion. It is a message for all of us to be together and work together for our church.”