Our Lady of St. John of the Lakes, A Tradition of Faith in Every Season
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
November 21, 2019
S ince a girl died in a terrible accident and was revived thanks to the presence of a statuette of the Immaculate Conception, many miracles have been attributed to the small figure. 
The statue was originally donated by a friar almost four centuries ago to the Church of St. John of the Lakes in Jalisco, Mexico. 
Nov. 30 marks the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the sculpture to its current home, a basilica cathedral in the highlands of Jalisco. 
And, because this particular statue is of the Immaculate Conception, she is celebrated on several days in Mexico — Feb. 2; June 24; Aug. 15, and during Advent on Dec. 8. (The December feast has been moved to Dec. 9 in the U.S. this year.)
Popular devotion to the Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos (Our Lady of St. John of the Lakes) or Cihuapilli (Great Lady), as the indigenous people called her, has been growing over time and has passed beyond the borders of the small town in the state of Jalisco in central western Mexico where the statue first was housed. 
Thousands of faithful wait for her with fervor, year after year, to gather in prayer. In recent months the pilgrim version of the statue has reached the parishes of St. Joseph in Elgin, St. Monica in Carpentersville and St. Mary in Sterling. 
On other occasions she has visited different parishes of the Rockford Diocese and throughout the United States.
Those devoted to Mary as the Immaculate Conception are united in prayers, commitments and sacrifices offered to seek special favors through her.
Although each parish greets this Mexican Marian statue in its own unique way, the style of prayer at Elgin’s St. Joseph Parish includes a choir of little birds — pigeons, canaries and parakeets — who sing constantly, says Father Jesús Domínguez, pastor.
Since it is not usual to find birds emitting rhythmic sounds in a church, their presence and music stand out in this parish. 
Father Dominguez explains the birds’ presence is based on Psalm 148, which says “creation praises the Lord.” 
In San Juan de los Lagos during the month of May it is a tradition to place bird cages on the altar of the church “to sing to the Mother of God as part of creation,” Father Dominguez says.
“It is something marvelous and unique” says María Barba, a St. Joseph parishioner.
Elvira Brown, parishioner of St. Mary in Sterling, is devoted to Mary of St. John of the Lake. “In Mexico we made a pilgrimage every year walking to San Juan de los Lagos. We saw miracles, and to date I see them,” she says. 
Of three recent ones that have caught her attention are two related to people who did not believe in the intercession of Our Lady as the mother of God. Brown has spoken to them about the miracle of the wedding at Cana when, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus turned water into wine.
Brown says that she has knowledge of miracles in difficult cases ranging from health matters to judicial matters, and in different places, such as Mexico, Sterling, Las Vegas and California. 
She always emphasizes, “You don’t have to go to San Juan, but you must give thanks.” 
The visits of the pilgrim statue are used by many who for different reasons cannot go to Mexico to offer thanks or ask for favors.
“The Virgin Mother of God is one we know ... is in heaven and here is just an image ... , but we have a lot of faith,” says Agripina Valdés, parishioner of St. Joseph in Elgin.
From early in the morning, people arrive at the parishes with their pleas. Usually in the afternoon there are processions, Mass or activities with massive participation of faithful and demonstrations of respect and praise, with dances and flowers. 
The image is always attired in an elaborate A-line gown, but colors and decorations can change at different places. Often the dress is designed by someone who is honoring the virgin.
Faith and devotion to the Virgin of St. John of the Lakes increasingly receives more followers who attest to her miracles.