During November, 2013, a special event took place
at Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City. It
was a four-day conference that, according to press reports, was
inspired by John Paul II´s apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America
and focused on the evangelization of the Americas. Called “Our
Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the
American Continent” the event, sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for
Latin America (PCAL), the Knights of Columbus, the Basilica of
Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Higher Institute of Guadalupan
Studies, drew about 600 pilgrims.
There were a
limited number of invited guests who participated in the working
sessions at the conferences, and among those was Rhonda Jones,
a member of Regnum Christi from Canandaigua, New York, in
the Diocese of Rochester. She had the grace of attending
this "Pilgrimage and Encounter” (as the working invitees referred to
the event) and she is so very thankful to her
friend, RC member Karen Stein of Cazenovia, New York, for
the opportunity. Karen was invited to attend the first of
these conferences held at the Vatican in December 2012, and
she stated that her experience was not something she could
keep to herself. “Rather it is to be shared so
that others can come to a deeper understanding of the
New Evangelization and a profound appreciation of where the heart
of the Church is in light of this mission,” she
said. (Click here to read the first of her
blog series on her experience.)
|Karen Stein (left) and Rhonda Jones (right) with Dr. Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. |
After attending the 2013
event with Karen, Rhonda now wants to share her experience
with the rest of the RC movement. Following are her
answers to our questions.
Explain more about how you
came to attend this event?
My dear friend Karen
was first invited to attend the initial meeting last December,
convened by PCAL and the Knights of Columbus - held
in the Synod Hall, Vatican City. It was a small
meeting and to be an invited guest was very special.
It was run especially by PCAL leadership, Carl Anderson (Grand
Knight of the Knights of Columbus), Monsignor Chavez of the
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and attended by Pope
Benedict XVI, as well as several cardinals, archbishops and bishops,
and leading Catholics.
Knowing how strong my devotion
to Our Lady of Guadalupe was, Karen shared her experience
with me and suggested that I get the book and
the document they discussed there -- Our Lady of
Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love by Anderson and
Chavez, and Ecclesia in America by Pope John Paul
II -- which I did.
I had studied
a lot about Our Lady of Guadalupe before and yet
I found that I was learning so much more. I
was about to start a new Regnum Christi team and
approached the women to see if they would be willing
to study these two readings for our study circle this
year. They were thrilled, especially because several of them were
involved, like me, in Pilgrim Queen of the Family
To step back a bit, I am
a convert from Judaism. It wasn’t until I had been
Catholic for about seven years that I first encountered Our
Lady of Guadalupe, after I learned about Regnum Christi through
the Regnum Christi consecrated women, and was told the story
of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a Women’s Morning of
For a few months, that image was
displayed at local RC events as part of a fund-raising
raffle. I looked at it as a piece of art
and didn’t think anything of it. Then, during a May
Morning of Reflection, when another RC member (CarmenAna Klosterman) shared
at length the story about Our Lady of Guadalupe and
Juan Diego and the miracles, everything changed for me.
Ever since that morning, I wanted greatly to visit
the Mexico City Basilica and see Our Mother’s image on
Juan Diego’s tilma. I dreamed of going to visit with
one of the consecrated women, but that just didn’t work
out. Eventually, when the drug-related violence in Mexico was escalating,
I gave up my belief that I would go. It
would have to be up to Our Mother and Christ.
Then, in spring (2013), my wonderful husband Larry gave
me, for my birthday, a round-trip ticket to go to
Mexico City, saying that it probably was safe enough for
me to go! He wanted me to go with a
friend, so I asked Karen Stein, and she said, “Yes.”
In August, we booked a mid-November 2013 trip. A
week before we left, Karen called to tell me something
amazing – that the follow-up meeting to the one she
attended last December was planned to be held at the
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on exactly the same
days that we were going to be there! Now, that
was something very striking! She called PCAL in Rome and
asked if we could be invited. Several days later, when
I came home from daily Mass and after which I
had just said the final prayers for my 33 Days
Consecration to Our Blessed Mother (using Father Michael Gaitley’s book),
I checked email messages and saw that we were indeed
At the time, they couldn’t place us
at the hotel, as there was no room available, but
we were able to find a place to stay at
the outskirts of the city, quite a distance from the
Shrine with the relative of a Regnum Christi friend I
know. When we arrived, before the conference began, we went
to the Shrine to see Our Lady and get instructions.
That afternoon we received a call that a hotel room
had indeed opened up for the two of us to
stay with the other guests!
What were you
hoping to get out of attending?
Because I had
felt drawn to Our Lady of Guadalupe for years, I
wanted to understand why this was so. I hoped to
come to a deeper love for and understanding of Our
Lady of Guadalupe and the symbolism and importance of her
image and story, as this might lead me, and then
others, to a greater love for Our Mother and for
Christ. I hoped to thank her “in person” for watching
Also, I would come to more closely
understand how Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego related
to the New Evangelization and how this story could help
the whole world. As Our Lady of Guadalupe played such
a significant role in reinvigorating the Catholic Church and bringing
about millions of conversions, I felt an internal challenge to
help more people learn the story and its creation of
a “Civilization of Love.”
How much time during the
conference was spent in prayer, and did you get any
special “lights” from the Holy Spirit at this time?
We (everyone at the conference) spent probably one third
of our time in prayer. Prayer was lifted to very
high importance at this event. Everything began with prayer –
lengthy, beautiful prayers -- and concluded the same way. Great
importance was placed upon the starting of each session --
the talks and working segments -- with prayer. It just
seemed understood and totally accepted that if we wanted the
best fruit, we needed to ask Our Blessed Mother to
lead us every step of the way.
emphasis on prayer engendered in me even greater respect for
the cardinals, bishops, archbishops and the other leaders who planned
the conference. This was a terrific model for all of
us as participants – that when we are working apostolically,
we must first go to our Triune God and to
Our Mother, never thinking that we as humans know the
necessary and best directions to go in. Furthermore, we were
about His work -- His Kingdom. I was so thankful
for this model. The emphasis on prayer certainly touched my
It also reinforced the beautiful model we
have in Regnum Christi – that of being contemplative and
apostolic (the latter springing from the former, and with our
focus on growth in our own holiness.) This is one
of the many ways in which important aspects of Regnum
Christi were confirmed at this special event.
was especially moved by Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s extensive and beautiful
prayer of love and gratitude to Our Lady of Guadalupe
– delivered by him with deep emotion, and not lost
upon the presentation to her by a bouquet of golden
roses from the Pope immediately afterward.
Was seeing the
tilma all you expected?
At first I was
not “moved” like I had hoped or expected to be.
(It was a little disappointing.) But it turned out that
we had plenty of time to be in the Basilica
facing Our Lady in the true tilma a lot of
time – and my first reaction did not “tell it
all.” Eventually, while in her presence, I started crying occasionally
out of the blue, and not in response to something
I thought or something said or prayed. Soon I found
out that others were having the same experience – just
breaking out in tears “randomly” in her presence.
Over those days, I felt extraordinary peace inside. I also
felt that I could turn over all decisions (big and
small) to her – that I could just abandon myself
to her and she would lead me in every way,
according to what she wanted. And, how she arranged the
flowers for the bishop in Juan Diego’s tilma, she kept
arranging things for me. I was really stunned. When I
needed something (e.g. water to drink), what I needed would
appear or be made unusually available to me. This happened
During the conference, you were divided
into groups to discuss various topics of relevance to the
Church in the Americas. Which group were you in, and
what did you discuss? Who was in your group?
Karen attended the meeting on “Colleges and Universities.” I
attended the session on “Marriage and the Family.”
My meeting was beautifully run by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani
Thorne of Lima, Peru and Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix. I
especially got to know Bishop Olmsted well. What a terrific
and kind and sensitive man! Ours was, by far, the
largest group with about 30 participants, and they skillfully and
respectfully got through suggestions of all of the participants in
the allotted time – a major accomplishment. Everyone was treated
so well and no one was rushed.
in my group were Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel,
Leif Arvidson, executive director of the Shrine of Our Lady
of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Dr. Jose Aste
Tonsmann (whose advanced research on Our Lady’s eyes in the
tilma has amazed the world – see video of his
work at: http://www.sancta.org/videos.html).
In our group,
the many suggestions covered topics ranging from NFP to encouraging
teens to focus ahead upon what careers/vocations/college majors would help
them prepare to build God’s Kingdom.
Later, there was
a general meeting at which the major proposals of all
of the work groups were presented. Some key suggestions repetitively
|Carl Anderson, Grand Knight, was a conference speaker.|
- Teaching the Story of Our Lady of
Guadalupe and of all that surrounds it
- Helping People
ENCOUNTER Christ, not just learn about Him
- Developing many
more people to be missionaries
- Cross-cultural growth across religions,
demographics, languages especially throughout the Americas, relating back to the
history and example of Our Lady and Juan Diego
- The role of popular piety: spreading the love of Christ
and evangelization via the laity, rather than from the top
- Several documents (besides the one’s I mentioned earlier)
were stressed, including Pope Benedict’s “Aparaceida” and Pope Francis’ “Lumen
Did you hear the speech from Grand
Knight Carl Anderson? What do you remember about his talk?
From my notes, I remember Mr. Anderson
saying that the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe provides
an example of what the Laity can aspire to be.
In fact, for those women who wish to have a
more important role in the Catholic Church, there is no
role greater than that given to and lived by the
Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ.
pointed out that, as our Lady of Guadalupe, she presents
and relates to a mixture of cultures. She interacts with
people in a range of social strata as well as
ages (from the Bishop to his guest, to his domestic
help and their children, to Juan Diego to Juan Bernardino).
He stressed the importance of family in evangelization,
emphasizing the family as the most natural means for evangelization.
He also said that, as Catholics, we have to make
ourselves available to more people and a greater variety of
people who are yet waiting to hear the Gospel.
Mr. Anderson stressed how important kindness is and stated
that the church grows by attraction, not by proselytizing. It
should not just be the wealthy assisting the materially poor,
and outreach should not be approached in a condescending or
“paternalistic” way. Rather it should reflect Christ’s love. He added
that we must to convey God’s love, reconciliation and forgiveness
as demonstrated through Our Lady of Guadalupe.
have any additional comments?
Yes. We in Regnum Christi
have been taught and trained in many ways to help
others “Encounter Christ.” That is what we need to be
doing, ranging from our regular “Encounters with Christ” to guiding
others regarding Eucharistic Adoration, our missions, and our imitation of
Christ and Our Blessed Mother as we interact with others.
Moreover, I have found that others can encounter Christ in
the reading aloud the Nican Mopohua in Appendix A of
the Anderson and Chavez book. This is the first written
account of the Our Lady of Guadalupe story, and is
|Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop of Mexico City, presents golden roses to Our Lady of Guadalupe.|
Finally, the Our Lady of Guadalupe
image is that of a woman who is pregnant, which
is a point significant to today’s Prolife Movement and our
need to understand the true dignity of the human person.
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is all about
the conversion of a culture that was widely and radically
entrenched in human sacrifice for blood-thirsty gods to a “Civilization
of Love” through Christ. I would encourage all RC members
to intimately know her story and apply it wherever they
feel so moved.
For more information on the
event, go to the following links to articles from the
National Catholic Register, the Catholic News Agency, and the YouTube
video of the message delivered at the beginning of the
event by Pope Francis.