Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
24 Jul 2013
Every day, hundreds of buses with thousands of pilgrims flock to a very special Brazilian known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida. With over 11 million visits per year, it is one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world. In fact, it welcomes much more pilgrims than other famous sites like that of Lourdes and Fatima.
On arrival, many pilgrims light a candle, to thank Our Lady for the graces they've received. Others spend hours praying in this room suited for over 70,000 people. In it, some leave personal items like letters and pictures to thank Our Lady or to make a special prayer.
Our Lady of Aparecida is the patroness of Brazil, and devotion to Her statue dates back to 1717. According to tradition, in October of that year, two fishermen prayed to Our Lady, asking Her to grant them a good catch for the day. As they dragged up their nets, they found this small clay statue of Our Lady and many fishes.
The name "Aparecida" comes from the Spanish word for 'appearing', since the fishermen were granted their wish, through the intercession of Our Lady.
Construction for the first Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Aparecida, began in 1834. In fact, the site attracted so many people, that over time, a nearby town came to be. A century later, a new 18,000 square meter sanctuary was needed to accommodate all the pilgrims. Now that site is a reality. It's a site that welcomes more than 200,000 pilgrims every single day.