Student Trip to DC: Final Day 6

Our last day was blessed in that it was finally sunny and warm after a week of gray clouds and drizzle. The students had been troopers with their ponchos and umbrellas all week.

Our day began at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is the largest Catholic Church in all of North America! Even though we only had two hours to take it in, someone could easily spend all day viewing the art, architecture, and holy spaces in the vast building.

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At the basilica, we met my friend Magdalena Gutierrez who is a gifted speaker in Catholic evangelization. She is also from Mexico, so I asked her to share with the group the story of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was an indigenous Indian born in  Mexico in 1474 to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared. What is unique about this apparition is that she appeared to him as a woman of his own culture and even spoke to him in his native language, Nahuatl, not in the Spanish language of the conquerors. Mary asked Juan Diego to have the bishop build a church in her honor, and when he went to the bishop to make his request, she miraculously appeared on his tilma, or cloak. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is now visited by millions of pilgrims each year. Here, the students explore the small chapel dedicated to her and St. Juan Diego.

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After Magdalena’s presentation, we attended Mass in the crypt church, which was accompanied by beautiful organ music. After Mass, we viewed the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first American Indian saint, born in 1656 in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, in present-day New York.

We continued our afternoon honoring Native American culture by visiting the Museum of the American Indian. One of the original curators of the museum was the late George Horse Capture, a member of the A’aninin (Gros Ventre) tribe from Ft. Belknap. The museum includes video presentations, written material, and arts and crafts from tribes across north and south America, as well as award-winning architecture. While the museum brought about a mixture of feelings from pride to anger and frustration to hope for the students and chaperones, it was an excellent and worthwhile visit.

At the end of our trip, we celebrated the way every tourist to Washington, DC celebrates: with ice cream from the ice cream truck! It was truly a blessed trip, and I want to thank everyone who made it possible through your prayers, encouragement, and donations. God bless you!

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