This year marked the joyous return of two large processions in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one in Riverside and one in the Coachella Valley, much-loved annual traditions that were put on hold for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The procession in Riverside, called El Camino de San Juan Diego, took participants on a nearly four-mile walk from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the top of Mt. Rubidoux, where Mass was celebrated. The Dec. 3 procession has occurred annually (excluding 2020 and 2021) for over 20 years.

“The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a tradition of our faith for almost five centuries and it’s part of who we are as Catholics,” said Bishop Alberto Rojas, who attended the Mt. Rubidoux procession for the first time this year. He walked the entire procession and celebrated the bilingual Mass on Mt. Rubidoux….

A group of men nicknamed the “Juan Diegos” are in charge of organizing and carrying out the Mt. Rubidoux procession. The group is responsible for all aspects of the event, including acquiring permits to bring the large group through downtown Riverside and raising the necessary funds….

For Father Daniel Prado-Reyes, M., the Shrine’s pastor, this year was his first opportunity to take part in the pilgrimage….

“This year, many obstacles were thrown at us. At one point we understood that the hill was not available, that it was now private property. Questions about paying for parking also arose,” he said. However, Fr. Prado-Reyes and the two event coordinators had faith that solutions would be found, and they were….

The joyful procession must be extremely well-organized as it travels through busy streets and natural landscapes. The mood was light with prayers, music and dance. The peaceful hill, covered in cacti and rocks, is reminiscent of Tepeyac, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego on four occasions.

Peña estimates that a few thousand people joined the procession, including some from neighboring cities. Among them are children who are too young to walk and the elderly, as well as people who help both groups along the way….

A man named Luis, from Ontario, has been making the pilgrimage for years dressed as Juan Diego and walking barefoot. “My father taught me from a young age to believe in Christ, in the Virgin, and in God, and I promised my mother that as long as I could, I would come to see the Virgin. I do it every year,” he said….

The second of the Diocese’s large processions took place in the Coachella Valley on Dec. 12. This procession is much longer, so much so that it is also called a pilgrimage. It traditionally begins in Palm Springs in the parish of Our Lady of Solitude, passing through eight cities and concluding in the parish of Our Lady of Soledad in Coachella, a journey of 33 miles. The pilgrimage has a rich 40-year history with the participation of several parishes.

Sonia González is the coordinator and president of the committee that organized the procession this year. She says people were hungry to resume the pilgrimage….

The day began with the traditional mananitas and Mass at 4 a.m. The pilgrimage started around 6 a.m. Some 2,500 people began the walk, but more gradually joined as it got closer to the end of the journey, which she said culminates with about 22,000 pilgrims. The pilgrims arrived at their destination 12 hours after they began, where they receive a blessing and some much needed rest.

This year, fewer parishes (only five) participated, not for lack of interest, but because Covid continues to make fundraising difficult. This year they sold raffle tickets instead of selling food to raise funds, which led to difficulties raising enough money for the pilgrimage. Gonzalez said that the costs are vast, as they have to provide security and proper facilities for the pilgrims….
The above comes from a Dec. 15 story in the Inland Catholic Byte.