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Our Lady of Guadalupe and the New Evangelization
RC member Rhonda Jones talks about her experience at a conference on “evangelization in the Americas” at the Basilica in Mexico City

Our Lady of Guadalupe

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
Karen Stein and Rhonda Jones
Karen Stein (left) and Rhonda Jones (right) with Dr. Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
blog series on her experience.)

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 groups already.

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 Reflection.

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 invited guests.

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 over me.

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
Mass at the Mexico City Basilica
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. 

This 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 heart deeply.

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.

I 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 many times.

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.

Among members 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:

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
Grand Knight Carl Anderson
Carl Anderson, Grand Knight, was a conference speaker.
of the work groups were presented. Some key suggestions repetitively given were:

  • 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 down
  • Several documents (besides the one’s I mentioned earlier) were stressed, including Pope Benedict’s “Aparaceida” and Pope Francis’ “Lumen Fidei.”

    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.

    He 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.

    Do you 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
    Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop of  Mexico City
    Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop of Mexico City, presents golden roses to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
    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 incredibly touching.

    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.



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