More than 100 pilgrims cross the Andes in a show of love for the Virgin Mary

Crusade of Mary More than 100 pilgrims arrived at the Bellavista Shrine in Santiago, Chile, Feb. 2, 2023. | Credit: Instagram Cruzada de María

With the theme “Pilgrim of the Andes, lift up your gaze,” more than 110 youths began the trek known as the Crusade for Mary on Jan. 16 starting out from Mendoza, Argentina, and hiking 415 kilometers (260 miles) over the Andes to arrive on Feb. 2 at Bellavista Shrine on the other side of the mountains in metro Santiago, Chile.

The initiative is coordinated by the young men in the Schoenstatt Movement, including priests and seminarians. Youths from Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile also participated, as well as a seminarian from Mexico and another from Switzerland.

Father Emmanuel Tropini, vicar of the St. Rose of Lima Parish in Villaguay, Argentina, joined the more than 100 youths in a great demonstration of love for the Virgin Mary, crossing on foot the Andes Mountains in a pilgrimage.

In comments on the Mirador Entre Rios portal, the priest recalled their passage by Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the mountain range with “all its wonderful magnitude” and the landscape, “which remains in each of us in an unforgettable way, surprising us at every step by the message of creation.”

“All this reveals to us the importance of knowing our country through its beauties and from our faith,” the priest said. “This challenge of the pilgrimage and its route also fill our souls.”

There were 110 youths on the pilgrimage who made the journey “strengthened by faith, prayers, and also the interchange that this type of event brings about at the places where a break is taken to recharge and continue.”

“It’s a very enriching experience from the spiritual and human point of view,” he said.

“It’s a grace from God that we must interpret as an opportunity to think about over and over again. We walked surrounded by imposing sights and creation shows us how small we are,” the priest noted.

“However, we must think about how much each one of us can do, along with others, to change and engender empathy that allows us to look with the desire to help to bring the word of the Creator to those who feel discouraged in this complex world,” Tropini said.

Regarding the theme of the pilgrimage, the priest explained that it was about “raising our gaze to heavenly things, to the things of God, so as to not dwell on earthly realities but with faith, hope, and ideals. Something that we work on a lot are values and aspiration to the great things in life. Not settling for small things but fighting for the convictions that are related to all this.”

In addition to “the way the landscape refreshes” the soul, the parochial vicar appreciated being in the midst of the mountains because it “puts us in the position to understand that we are a small speck in the grand creation.”

Tropini also mentioned the difficulties of the journey. “We went through different moments and circumstances where the trek gets very hard, with an average of about 25 kilometers (15 miles) per day,” he explained.

“With the sun, blisters on the feet, and some pain it gets complicated and even uncomfortable,” he added. “It’s very cold, without snow on the route, but there is some higher up in the mountains.” (It is now summer in the southern hemisphere.)

There was a climate “of contagious joy,” due to the number of young people who “participated a lot in prayer, singing, and daily Mass,” the priest shared.

“There was a spiritual atmosphere, but we also played the guitar, and since there are kids from other countries, they talked about soccer and they observed their local customs, some that we know and others that we’re learning about in the daily interchange, in an atmosphere of wonderful communion,” he recounted.

At the last stop before arriving at Bellavista, Argentine pilgrim Tomás Ugarte gave his testimony on social media: “I am counting the kilometers to get there, my heart starts pounding, you can begin to sense the Bellavista Shrine is there; [I’m] very happy there’s no more to go.”

Vicente, a young Chilean, was thankful for the “very great” affection they experienced during this time together. “Thanking the Blessed Mother for what this crusade has been like and to meet Jesus, with this tremendous energy and love for God that we have,” he commented.

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Matías Estigarribia from Paraguay shared: “Excited, happy to arrive after much suffering, wanting to arrive and give to the Blessed Mother all the sacrifice and dedication that we made during these days.”

When they reached the doors of the shrine, the “crusaders” sang and waved the flags of their countries.

History of the Crusade for Mary

The pilgrimage has its origin in an international meeting of the Boys’ Youth of the Schoenstatt Movement, which was held in 1999 in Bellavista, Chile.

As an activity prior to the gathering, there was a pilgrimage on foot that started from the shrine in Mendoza and crossed the Andes mountain range through Christ the Redeemer pass.

The purpose was to symbolize the magnitude of the event that they were about to celebrate, with the particular stamp of the Boys’ Youth, and covering the route that the troops of Generals José de San Martín and Bernardo O’Higgins made in their struggle for the independence of their nations from colonial Spain.

The future Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, visited the Schoenstatt Movement’s Bellavista Shrine in 1988.

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This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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