Our Immaculate Lady of Lo Vasquez
Chile: Sanctuary of Lo Vásquez
Feast day: December 8
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Lo Vásquez is a pilgrimage site in Chile. It is located in the city of the same name, just 32 kilometers south of Valparaíso and 70 kilometers from the Chilean capital Santiago. In that place, the image of the Virgin Mary is venerated, invoking the Immaculate Conception. Every December 8, the town receives about 1 million pilgrims.
Lo Vásquez has become the most important place of Marian devotion in Chile. Although they come from all over the country, pilgrimages are made from Valparaíso and Santiago, by bicycle, on foot, some even on their knees. They start the day before to arrive at the sanctuary of Lo Vásquez at sunrise on the 8th.
The history of this Marian Shrine of the Virgin of Lo Vásquez dates back to the first half of the 19th century. At that time, José Ulloa, with the help of some neighbours, built a hermitage in the garden of his house, as there were no temples nearby. He placed the image of the Immaculate Conception there and it began to be venerated by the parishioners of the area. After negotiations with the local pastor, religious celebrations were also held.
In the year 1850, the devoted Father José Manuel Troncoso made the surprising decision to move the statue, perhaps because the chapel did not look right due to the vibrations that were taking place or because of the small space. In fact, he moved it to a shed some 100 yards north on the road to Valparaíso, in front of what is now the Temple of the Virgin. Over time, this barn served as a public school and later as a parish school.
Father Troncoso asked the neighbors and travelers who passed the place for the necessary help for the construction of a new chapel. The Leiva Vásquez family donated a piece of land that corresponds to the current temple. This fact caused animosity with the Ulloa family, who always wanted the Most Pure Virgin in the chapel in their garden, as it had been at the beginning of the devotion.
To resolve this conflict, Father Troncoso allowed the ecclesiastical authority to intervene and finally they gave their approval.
On April 2, 1851, a strong earthquake destroyed the standing walls. However, Pater, a man of faith, continued his campaign to raise funds to restart construction. With the help of an engineer, the construction of the third chapel to the Blessed Virgin of Lo Vásquez began with a foundation of 33 x 7 meters, which corresponds to the current size and position of the nave.
Father Troncoso sent a new statue of the Blessed Virgin from Spain and this is the one found in the current temple. On November 16, 1854, he obtained from the ecclesiastical authority, for the chapel, the decree establishing it as a public temple.
On August 16, 1906, at 7:00 PM, the violent earthquake that struck Valparaíso destroyed the third chapel of the Sanctuary of Lo Vásquez. The chronicles say that the people who passed through the place after the earthquake were filled with amazement and moved to see that, despite the fact that the rest of the chapel had been destroyed, the altar wall with the statue of the Virgin remained intact.
On December 8, 1908, the pastor of Casablanca, José Miguel Galaz, blessed the chapel and laid the first stone, no longer for a chapel but for a real temple to the Most Pure Virgin. With renewed enthusiasm and with the efforts of many neighbors, the rebuilding of the church began again, with the pious Don José Ulloa, already a venerable old man, standing out in an exemplary manner. The neighborhood also followed this example by helping where possible with their resources. This created a new construction in iron and cement of 33 x 7 meters, with 9 meters high walls.
In 1913, the temple was finally inaugurated with great joy, the stucco, decoration and painting still missing. It was thought of placing the image of the Immaculate Virgin in a shrine on the side of the road for the convenience of traveling people, with time constraints. A new large image, 1.60 meters high, was acquired in Santiago for the temple, which was to be placed in the central niche of the church.
Thus, on December 6, 1913, with great festivities, the roadside shrine of La Purísima was blessed, with a plaque in recognition of its benefactor, Don José Ulloa.
The following day, December 7, the sacred image was taken in procession to Casablanca for the blessing of the parish church, a ceremony presided over by Don Miguel Rücker, vicar general of the diocese.
On December 8, 1913, the rebuilt temple was solemnly blessed, much to the delight of the devotees for giving the Immaculate Conception a dignified shrine.
In 1918, work began on the expansion of the temple with two aisles and a large sacristy.
In 1938, the managing parish priest had to acquire a piece of land towards the hill behind the church in order to provide a solution for the route of the processions and to start the construction of the monumental Stations of the Cross that can be seen there today. Once the temple was finished, a nursing home and an inn for pilgrims were built.
The nursing home changed its use to serve as a national training facility, a home for spiritual exercises, and today as a diocese seminary.
In 1951, the Tenth National Eucharistic Congress of Valparaíso took place with great solemnity and in order to carry out the spiritual preparation of the Christian people, the image of the Immaculate Virgin of Lo Vásquez was promoted as a Missionary Virgin.
From July 31 of the same year, the venerable image visited all the parishes of the diocese until it arrived in the cathedral on October 6, where the ceremonies of the Eucharistic Congress began. On Saturday, October 13, 1951 at 10:30 am, the Bishop of Valparaíso, Monsignor Rafael Lira Infante, in a solemn Papal Mass, enthroned the statue of the Most Pure Virgin of Lo Vásquez to the vociferous joy of thousands of devoted children and of the numerous Catholic people of Buenos Aires. In the afternoon of the same day, the image of the Virgin led the great maritime procession through the bay of Valparaíso.
It is the third bishop of Valparaíso, Monsignor Raúl Silva, who established Lo Vásquez as a sanctuary of the diocese. His successor, Monsignor Emilio Tagle, moved the newly established Major Seminary next to the shrine and, with the help of many, built a beautiful building where more than 40 priests have already been trained for the Diocese of Valparaíso and other dioceses in Chile. The Holy Father gave the seminary the title of San Rafael Pontifical Major Seminary. The sanctuary is then cared for by a community of religious catechists. In addition, in 1958, the Lo Vásquez School was built depending on the sanctuary.
When Monsignor Francisco de Borja was Bishop of Valparaíso, the Shrine of Lo Vásquez, which was badly damaged by the 1985 earthquake, was completely rebuilt and the retreat house was repaired. The temple and tower were recreated. It was a time of great attendance of the faithful at the sanctuary. Construction of the Eucharistic Campus began.
Monseigneur Francisco de Borja was succeeded by Cardinal Jorge Medina and the presbytery of the sanctuary was rebuilt. In a short time afterwards, a larger piece of land was purchased next to the shrine. Next, Monsignor Gonzalo Duarte G. brings to a close the beautiful Eucharistic Campus and a confessional chapel.