Miracle occurs on West Fifth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 1999

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 29, 1999

LAPLACE – The Christmas season is a time of miracles. After all, it was amiracle that started Christmas. So it is appropriate that a statue thatrepresents a miracle should arrive in LaPlace just as Christmas gets under way.

Recently, a one-ton limestone sculpture of Our Lady of Guadalupe was unloaded by forklift at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic School on W. FifthStreet.

Just that the statue arrived is a miracle in itself. This is the second one. The first statute broke in half in the hold of a ship that was hit by a storm in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

Rosie Monica, the lady responsible for bringing Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. John Parish, knew things would turn out OK.”I have a lot of faith,” she said.

In fact, faith is the reason why she got the statue for the school in the first place.

Two years ago, her 6-year-old grandson, Justin Monica, was suffering from a rare congenital heart condition. He was sent to the Mayo Clinic inMinnesota for some very delicate surgery. Monica, her family andeverybody at St. Joan of Arc school prayed hard for Justin’s recovery.Justin came home only a week after the surgery and the doctors were impressed with his recovery.

“The doctors said he had improved 3,000 percent,” said Monica. “I think ourprayers were answered and it was a miracle.”Monica wanted to do something to thank all the people at St. Joan of Arcwho prayed for Justin’s recovery. She had a friend who was in real estateand traveled in Mexico quite a lot. Even though her friend (who wishes toremain anonymous) was not Catholic, he agreed to help Monica find a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his travels in Mexico.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Western Hemisphere. It issaid the Lady of Guadalupe is the only image of the Virgin Mary to appear in the Americas. In fact, there are some who say her appearance to anAztec peasant in 1531 is what saved the Americas years of torment and bloodshed between the Aztecs and the Spaniards.

By 1531, Cortez and his army had conquered the Aztec empire. There werea few Aztec converts to Catholicism, but the majority of the Indians hated the Spaniards and were on the verge of an uprising.

In December 1531, an Aztec peasant named Juan Diego who had recently been converted to Catholicism was on his way to Mass. While walking pasta hill he heard a female voice call out to him. When he climbed to the topof the hill he beheld a vision of the Virgin Mary. She told Juan to go to theSpanish bishop of Mexico and tell him to build a shrine to her on the hill.

Juan Diego managed to see the bishop and tell him the story. The bishopwas skeptical and demanded that the Virgin Mary give him a sign to prove she was who she was supposed to be. Juan Diego went back to the hill andtold the apparition what the bishop wanted.

The Virgin Mary told Juan Diego to go pick some roses on the next hill and put them in his poncho. He was amazed because the next hill had Castillianroses growing where nothing should grow except cactus. In fact, Castillianroses only grow in Spain. He went back to the Virgin Mary, and shearranged the roses in a certain way in his poncho and told him to go back to the bishop.

When Juan Diego was shown into the bishop’s presence he opened his poncho and all the roses fell out. The bishop fell to his knees in awe andreverence as he stared at the front of Juan Diego’s poncho.

Juan Diego looked down and saw a perfect image of the Lady of Guadalupe emblazoned on his poncho.

That is not the end of the story, or the miracle. When word got out aboutthe image of the Virgin Mary on Juan Diego’s poncho, Aztecs came from all over to see it. Many converted when they saw the poncho, and a huge warand massacre was averted because of the miracle.

The poncho survives today and is kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The poncho, which is made out of cactus cloth,was not meant to last more than a year. Yet, 458 years later, the ponchoand the image of the Virgin Mary is still as fresh as the first day it appeared. Hundreds of thousands of faithful pilgrims visit the shrine everyyear to pray and look upon the miracle of Juan Diego’s poncho.

Not only is the statue a reminder of Justin Monica’s recovery, but St. Joanof Arc principal Larry Bourgeois also wants to dedicate the statue to Sister Germaine Roussell, who was principal for over 27 years.

Monica said she wanted to get the statue for the school because, “I wanted people to know that prayer works and miracles do happen.”She said that because of her prayers and the donations of “lots and lots of people,” they were able to get the statue.

“I really don’t want any recognition for this,” she says humbly.

Bourgeois said there will be an official unveiling sometime in the very near future and that a bed of roses will be planted around the Lady of Guadalupe statue.

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