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Multitude of Personal Touches Will Build an Expanded Shrine

Cathedral will create a mosaic from broken bits of donated china in an enlarged niche for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

December 11, 2005|Larry B. Stammer | Times Staff Writer

Honoring the Catholic heritage of Latinos, a shrine to Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will be expanded at a cost of $250,000 and with thousands of pieces of broken china donated by Southern Californians.

The china will be used to fashion a sweeping mosaic on an existing cathedral courtyard wall that will form the backdrop of the expanded shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Plans for the project were announced Friday by Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the downtown Los Angeles cathedral.

Mexican artist Lalo Garcia, who designed the existing shrine, has been commissioned to undertake the yearlong expansion. It will depict the appearances the church believes the Virgin of Guadalupe made to St. Juan Diego in 1531.

Kostelnik said the shrine, against the north wall overlooking the Hollywood Freeway, already draws thousands of visitors each year, particularly from Latino communities. The faithful can often be seen kneeling, praying and lighting candles before a painting of the Virgin.

Southern Californians who wish to contribute a china, ceramic or porcelain plate or cup to be broken and incorporated into the mosaic have until Monday evening to leave an item at a bin in the cathedral courtyard near the shrine. Monday is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"We're inviting every family in Los Angeles to come and bring a piece of china from their home, something closely related to them, something that has been at their table. Come and bring it over, and let that piece be a part of this mural, a part of this shrine," Garcia said.

On Friday, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony donated a red-trimmed china plate, which Kostelnik ceremonially broke with a hammer before depositing it in a bin.

Declared to be the patroness of the Americas by the late Pope John Paul II, Our Lady of Guadalupe is said by the church to have first appeared Dec. 9, 1531, to a poor Mexican peasant, Juan Diego, as he passed Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City.

The virgin told him to go to his bishop and ask that a church be built in her honor at the foot of the hill, according to Catholic belief. The bishop refused twice, but asked for a sign. Three days later, on Dec. 12, Diego placed roses in his tilma -- a traditional cloak worn in Mexico -- as he said the virgin had directed. He took them to the bishop. When the tilma was opened, Mary's image is said to have been miraculously imprinted on the cloth, persuading the bishop to build the church. A tiny piece of the tilma is contained in a second shrine to the virgin, inside the cathedral.

Speaking to reporters, Garcia noted that roses, a sign of Mary's presence, would be planted on the Hollywood Freeway side of the wall, so that they could climb and spill over the crown of the wall inside the courtyard to adorn the shrine.

"Roses are the most important symbol in the story," Garcia said. "We should not paint the flowers. We should not paint the rose. We should touch and smell the rose and see the beauty of it."

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