The story began in 1630 when a Portuguese settler named Farias ordered two images of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to revive the faith of the people in the city of Cordova, Argentina. From Brazil, two images arrived: that of Mary as Mother of God, and the other as the Immaculate Conception. Both images are made of terracotta (baked clay), 20cm and 38cm high, respectively. As called for by the situation during those times, the image have to be carried together with a caravan in order to protect it from robbers.
Having left Buenos Aires, the caravans travelled for a day more, and having passed the Luján River, they sought a shelter near the ranch of a certain Don Tomás de Rosendo de Oramus. Leaving the next morning, the horses of one of the caravans-for unknown reasons, refused to leave. This was solved when one of the boxes was removed, and this box contained the image of the Immaculate Conception.
The caravans continued their way, reaching Sumampa, where the image of the Mary, the Mother of God is revered as Nuestra Señora de la Consolación de Sumampa. Meanwhile, the image of the Immaculate Conception remained in the ranch, understood to be willed by heavens as such.
There, a simple chapel was built wand the sacred image was venerated there, as she procured miracles to those who prayed in front of this simple image. A slave named Manuel was dedicated to serve the image. According to the written accounts, Manuel was born in Cabo Verde around 1604 and died on January 25, 1698. He served the chapel of our Lady for almost forty years.
A certain Doña Ana de Matos, bought the image from the Fr. Juan de Oramás, an heir of Rosendo. She wanted to build a more beautiful chapel for the Our Lady, whose veneration has become so widespread in the land, with the help of a butler named Manuel Casco de Mendoza, and of the chaplain Don Pedro de Montalbo. Finally, Bishop Antonio Azcona confirmed the chaplaincy of Don Pedro de Montalbo. The chapel was built in the present city of Luján.
In 1904, Mons. Juan Nepomuceno Terrero, the Bishop of La Plata, ordered the image to be covered with silver inorder to prevent the terracotta from disintegrating. He then made exact replicas of the image, made of wood. Later that year, it was transferred to a bigger church, of grand Gothic architecture which would be known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, whose construction began on 1887 and would finish in the year 1935. Notable persons who have visited the Basilica were Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, St. Josemaría Escrivá, St. Luigi Orione and St. John Paul the Great.
She is the Patron of the Argentine Republic, as well as Paraguay and Uruguay. In fact, her clothes, white tunic and sky-blue mantle inspired the Argentine heroes in their design of the flag.
The Patroness of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word
As a seminarian, our founder, Fr. Carlos Miguel Buela, has been deeply devoted to Our Lady of Luján. He would pray in front of her image for more and holy vocations to priestly and consecrated life. There, he celebrated his first Mass. Our religious family always considered her as the Mother of our vocations.
Here in the Philippines, the Quasi-Parish of Our Lady of Luján was erected in the year 2010 and was entrusted to the Institute of the Incarnate Word for its administration. Since 2013, the image joins the annual Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros, Manila.
In 2011, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed Our Lady of Luján as the patroness before God of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
In 1863, the Superior of the Society of Jesus in Shanghai, China bought a land near the mountain of Sheshan. A chapel was built on the site which was later dedicated to Mary, Help of Christians. During the fury of Taiping Rebellion, the then superior of the Jesuits, Fr. Gu Zhen Sheng promised Our Lady a church if she would spare the Diocese of Shanhai from any any attacks. The Virgin Mother heard his prayers and the priest, true to his promise, started the project to build a church in her honor. Bishop Adrien-Hippolyte Languillat consectated the church on April 15, 1873. In 1874, Pope Pius IX granted indulgences to the faithful to those who would complete their pilgrimage to the Basilica. In 1942, Pope Pius XII raised the church into the status of a minor basilica.
As if raising the child Jesus of China, a bronze statue of almost 6 meters high was placed on the top of the main tower of the Basilica. This is the popularly known image of Our Lady of Sheshan. Under her foot, she crushed the head of the dragon
During the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of the Communist China, the Basilica was greatly damaged, and was confiscated, only to be returned to the Church in 1981. The revered image of Our Lady of Sheshan was also damaged, only to be replaced during the year 2000. The Bishop of Shanghai, Ignatius Gōng Pǐnméi was arrested and imprisoned for 30 years. He was made cardinal by St. John Paul II in 1979, although it was not announced publicly.
Prayer of Benedict XVI to Our Lady of Sheshan
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.
When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.
From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!
Our list of patron saints would not be complete if there is no mention of St. John Paul the Great.
Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. As a child, he was active and atheltic although his family has suffered deaths, of his mother ,sister and lastly, his elder brother. In his youth, he moved to Krakow and studied philology at Jagiellonian University. He was also a member of a theatrical guild. His youth were marked with the tragedy of World War II. But during this terrible years, he discovered his vocation for priesthood. On November 1, 1946, he was ordained as a priest and went to Rome for further studies.
In 1948, Fr. Karol returned to his native land to work in the parishes and involved himself with the apostolate with the youth. On September 28, 1958, he was consecrated as a bishop Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak. In 1964, he became the Archbishop of Krakow, and 3 years later, Pope Blessed Paul VI made his a cardinal.
After the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, the cardinal gathered at the Vatican for a conclave which elected Cardinal Albino Luciani who took the name ‘John Paul’, but he died after a 33-day reign. Once more, the same cardinal held a conclave which elected Cardinal Wojtyla. He took the name John Paul II.
His almost 26-year pontificate were marked with his love for life, the families, youth and the sick, travelling around the world, visiting his beloved flock where they are. As from his liturgical text for his memorial: “Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches“. He showed during many occassions his fatherly love and concern over our Religious Family, lending his hand for our foundation and canonical approvals. Among his important interventions on our institute is when he assigned to us the then newly-established Roman Catholic Mission Sui Iuris of Tajikistan. Meanwhile, the Magisterium of St. John Paul the Great illumine our Constitutions, and we consider him as our Spiritual Father.
St. John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday which he himself has established. His funeral was attended by millions of faithful and is considered as one of the largest gatherings in the history. He was canonized by Pope Francis on April 24, 2014.