For centuries people have made pilgrimages with a spiritual purpose to holy places. In the Rio Grande Valley, hundreds are drawn to the Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. It is one of the most visited shrines in the United States with an average of more than 1 million visitors a year. The history of this Shrine began in 1920, when the Reverend Alfonso Jalbert, O.M.I., built a small wooden chapel in San Juan, Texas as a mission church of St. Margaret Mary Church in Pharr, Texas.
The origins of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle are found in San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico, a town founded near Guadalajara after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Spanish missionaries placed a small image of the Immaculate Conception in the church of San Juan de los Lagos.
In 1949, a priest commissioned an artist in Guadalajara, Mexico to make a reproduction of the statue venerated at San Juan de Los Lagos and this reproduction was first placed in the San Juan chapel.
Bishop Mariano S. Garriaga approved the construction of a new church and the Shrine was built five years later in 1954, and dedicated to the Virgen de San Juan. Sixteen years after its construction, a tragic event on October 23, 1970 destroyed the entire Shrine. While 50 priests were celebrating Mass with another 50 people in attendance, and 100 school children in an adjacent cafeteria, the pilot of a small low-flying airplane crashed into the roof of the shrine and exploded into flames.
The ground breaking for the new Shrine took place on November 27, 1976 and the new Shrine was dedicated on April 19, 1980. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops designated Our Lady of San Juan del Valle a national Shrine on March 24, 1998, and the following year on June 12, 1999 Pope John Paul II designated it as a minor Basilica.
You should also walk around the grounds following the path around the stations of the cross. The statues are beautiful and very detailed.
I think everyone that went to the Basilica enjoyed the tour. Back l to r: MaryJane, Colleen, Sue, Carolyn, Margareta, Vicki. Front l to r: Gloria, Joella, Rhonda.