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Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guayco Shrine (Ecuador), October 2018.

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The sisters in Guayaquil decided to take a little family pilgrimage to a Marian shrine to make the most of a three-day weekend in October. Six Servant Sisters 15 girls who live in the students’ residence—planned this visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Guayco in the province of Bolívar, Ecuador to pass a few days with the Blessed Mother there.

Saturday morning is a day of mission in a neighborhood on the city’s outskirts. For this reason our pilgrimage’s departure was arranged to begin in the early afternoon, after the morning mission. Once we were gathered together, the little retinue made its way to the Adean Mountains (the Andes) full of excitement and hope. During the ascent, the view of the landscape left us speechless. The sunset in that scene of mountains, rivers and mists extensive as the ocean was a spectacular sight.

When we arrived at the shrine it had already grown dark and the place seemed lonely. A man was waiting for us to guide us a few more yards into the forest to the guest house Don Bosco. After we settled in, we retraced our steps to pay a visit to Our Lady accompanied by our guide. We saw the shrine for the first time and the chapel with a statue of Our Lady of Guayco holding the Child Jesus who smiles at whoever looks at them.

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Before beginning a Rosary, our guide briefly told us the story behind the shrine. This is how we found out that the Virgin Mary appeared to a young shepherdess named Luz Maria Chela on August 15, 1708. The girl was resting with her flock in the cavity of a rock while repeating prayers that the Franciscans had taught her. Then a beautiful Lady appeared to her who talked to her about Heaven and taught her how to pray. The Lady appeared during the following days, too, and the girl became more and more captivated by her presence.

One day her mother, alarmed by the delay of her daughter and suspecting that the girl was entertaining herself with bad company, gave such a beating to Luz María that she made a considerably sized wound in her head. As soon as she could, Luz María ran to the hollow. There Our Lady was waiting for her, and told Luz María to wash her wounds in the water of the torrent. The wounds disappeared and the girl returned home. Her mother, appalled, thought it was witchcraft and took her to the priest to see what to do. The priest listened to the girl and wanted to go in person to the hollow. There Our Lady awaited them, to prove that whatever the girl said was true. That day was September 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Hence, the appearance of the Virgin was popularized by the name of Mama Nati del Guayco. “Mama” (written without an accent) is the Quechua word for “mother,” and “guayco” means "hollow" or “cavity.” This is how our first Quechua class was completed; We already know how to say two words.

On Sunday we spent the whole day in the Shrine praying, following the Stations of the Cross on the path that goes up the mountain to an immense cross, playing in the pine and eucalyptus forest and collecting pineapples and calla lilies that many saw for the first time. We also had two meetings that truly nourished our spirit. And at night, after dinner, we got as close as we could to the glass that surrounds the grotto where Luz María washed at the Virgin Mary’s bidding, where there is now a beautiful image of the girl and the Lady. There we prayed a rosary (the fourth of the day, since it was the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary) with all our heart. How we would have liked to be able to enter the grotto and give a kiss to Our Lady!

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On Sunday we spent the whole day in the Shrine praying, following the Stations of the Cross on the path that goes up the mountain to an immense cross, playing in the pine and eucalyptus forest and collecting pineapples and calla lilies that many saw for the first time. We also had two meetings that truly nourished our spirit. And at night, after dinner, we got as close as we could to the glass that surrounds the grotto where Luz María washed at the Virgin Mary’s bidding, where there is now a beautiful image of the girl and the Lady. There we prayed a rosary (the fourth of the day, since it was the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary) with all our heart. How we would have liked to be able to enter the grotto and give a kiss to Our Lady!

On the return trip we were even able to visit a Lourdes grotto built to remember the graces that She distributes so generously to her children, in these altitudes where faith has deep roots in time and in the simplicity of hearts. A privilege and a grace that they share with the pilgrims, as we were for three days.

 See photo album

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