To the right of the Main Altar in St. Patrick’s Cathedral –that is, in a privileged place— during the last 18 years and for the veneration of believers, is placed a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
How did the image make it there? Who was the main person responsible for this incredible act? What happened so that the image of Our Lady of Tepeyac would reach a place of veneration today in New York City is a story that should be told and written. I intend, through these lines, to make known the incredible story that established this landmark.
The painting was done by an unknown artist in the XVIII Century. It is believed that it was the work of a successful painter, student of the great Mexican painter Miguel Cabrera. It is a present from the Archdiocese of Mexico to Catholics of the metropolitan Cathedral in New York. It was acquired in the Art Gallery of Enrique Romero in Mexico City and brought to New York, personally, by the then Archbishop of Mexico His Eminence Ernesto Cardinal Corripio Ahumada.
On the 8th of December of 1991, in the solemn Mass of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Corripio presented to his brother, the then Cardinal of New York, Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor, during the solemn liturgical celebration, the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During that liturgical act were present the Consul General of Mexico, Mr. Manuel Alonzo and Mrs. Rosa María Quijano, protagonist and principal donor so that this historical event would take place.
The miraculous impression of Our Lady of Guadalupe, among roses, on the poncho of the Indian San Juan Diego, in the apparition of December 12, 1531, is permanently on display in the new Basilica, built in her honor and for her veneration in Mexico City.
The word “Guadalupe” means “river of light.” Today we can say that there is a constant “river of believers” who go daily to honor Our Mother and Mother of God, under the invocation of the Mexican, Latin-American, American, and Amerindian “Virgen Morena,” in the beautiful painting now in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For the visit of his Holiness Pope John Paul II to New York, the painting of the Guadalupana was moved to the main altar to preside over the visit of His Holiness to the Cathedral, and for the prayer of the Holy Rosary directed by the Universal Pastor before the venerated image.
It is worth stating that the prominent placement that the painting has today, within the context of the Cathedral, in the place where the Tabernacle of the Cathedral was, to the right of the main altar, has its own history. All of it is intertwined with signs and miracles, which point to the fact that after a series of difficulties encountered in the placement of the painting --due to the construction and style of the Cathedral--, the Virgin has found a prominent place where to be revered and where she can accompany the life of its children.
Mrs. Margarita Perusquia has a primary placement in this story. As a founder of the organization “Mensajeros de María de Guadalupe” (Messengers of Maria Guadalupe), she has dedicated herself and the Institution to spread in New York and throughout the world the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This Marian devotion embodies the Latin-American spirit and puts together, in the best symbiosis, the most valuable of our origins, our history, our faith and our culture.
The request of Margarita Perusquia to the then Archbishop of New York: Terence Cardinal Cook was to allow her to build an altar in the Cathedral for the veneration of the “Guadalupana.” This act began this story which today inspires and brings so many devotees, not only from New York, but from the whole continent and across the seas.
The same request, with the best show of Christian patience and perseverance, was made by Margarita several times to Cardinal Cook and Cardinal O’Connor. Each, in their moment, referred her to the Cathedral’s rector, who –in turn—denied the request, usually for the reasons mentioned previously: the lack of consonance between the style of the painting, the construction and architectural style, and the art within the Cathedral.
As it was stated on the 8th of December, 1991, the Cardinal of Mexico: Ernesto Cardinal Corripio Ahumada, while celebrating the Eucharist in the Cathedral gave the painting of the Virgin to John Cardinal O’Connor, who –full of emotion— asks the multitudes where they would want the painting: his house, his office or in the Cathedral. To that the crowd of believers answered, at one voice: “Here, in the Cathedral.”
For one-and-a-half years the painting of the Guadalupe was stored in inadequate corners of the Cathedral. But soon, the daily crowd of pilgrims, the offerings, the candles, and flowers pressured the authorities in the Cathedral to find a better and more adequate place for the veneration of the image of the “Virgen Morena.” May these lines become written evidence of that story; and may they help to honor and give thanks to those who made this religious gesture possible. I would like to congratulate all my Mexican and Latin-American brothers and sisters on this day, in which Catholics happily celebrate the solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and Mother of the Americas.