San Juan Del Valle Lady of San San Juan Del Valle Medal
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100/Pkg San Juan Del Valle Silver Oxidized medal 1" Styles Vary

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  • Item #: (G222) 13/1086 Del Valle
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Silver Oxidized Lady of Lady of San San Juan Del Valle Medal-Inexpensive Lady of San San Juan Del Valle Silver Oxidized Medal-
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History of Virgen de San Juan
For centuries Christians have made pilgrimages with a spiritual purpose to holy places. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, hundreds are drawn to the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, and the number of pilgrims continues growing. Averaging more than one million visitors a year (20,000 a weekend), it is one of the most visited shrines in the United States.
 
Watch the History VideoThe history of this Marian shrine begins 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 the devotion to Our Lady of San Juan 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 1623, an acrobat traveling with his wife and children stopped in San Juan de los Lagos to give a performance. While practicing their act, the youngest daughter lost her balance and was killed. As her grieving parents prepared her burial, an Indian woman who was the caretaker of the church, brought the image of the Virgin Mary to them and begged the parents to place the image over their daughter's body and prayed for the Virgin's intercession. After placing the Virgin's image over the body of the child (according to the story related to the Bishop years later and following a meticulous investigation of the event) the child was brought back to life. As word spread of the miracle, the devotion to Our Lady, under the title of "La Virgen de San Juan", started to grow throughout Jalisco. Today, she is recognized by many people throughout Mexico as well as the United States.

In 1949, Rev. Jose Maria Azpiazu, O.M.I., became pastor of the parish of St. John the Baptist in San Juan, Texas. He was convinced that fostering a devotion to Our Lady of San Juan would benefit his people and help draw the community together. After receiving permission from the bishop to foster the devotion to Our Lady of San Juan, he commissioned an artist in Guadalajara, Mexico to make a reproduction of the statue venerated at San Juan de Los Lagos.
Over the years several myths have emerged concerning Father Azpiazu's trip to San Juan de los Lagos and Guadalajara, Mexico. The story as told by Benito Martinez, who drove with Father Azpiazu, relays that they drove to Guadalajara to order the replica of the statue after their visit to San Juan de Los Lagos. While driving to San Juan de Los Lagos and singing a new hymn that Fr. Azpiazu taught them, the car slipped off the road.

Martinez recalls that after getting back on the road they ran out of gas and they found a small ranch where a couple gave them enough gas to get to the next town. The couple also gave them a donation for the abbot of the shrine in San Juan de los Lagos. "We drove back looking for that ranch so that we could thank the family, but could not find the ranch. There was nothing there. Father Azpiazu said that Our Lady put the family there to help us, and that she wanted us to do something special for her."

Martinez said the experience deepened Father Azpiazu's devotion to the Mother of God for her intercession and protection, and he returned more determined to construct a sanctuary in honor of Our Lady of San Juan in Texas. The statue of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle 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. At the time San Juan was a part of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Over the next ten years other facilities were built around the shrine — a convent for Sisters and a school in 1955, a rectory and a pilgrim house in 1958, a retreat house in 1961, a cafeteria in 1963, and a nursing home in 1964.
Father Azpiazu retired in 1970 after 21 years of expanding the shrine complex and developing it into an important pilgrimage site.

Sixteen years after its construction, a tragic event on October 23, 1970 destroyed the entire shrine. While 50 priests were concelebrating 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. While the overall loss was estimated at $1.5 million, many claim it was a miracle that no one was hurt or died in the tragedy. The pilot of the plane, Francis B. Alexander, was the only fatality. Our Lady of San Juan was protecting her children at that moment. Also, Father Patricio Dominguez, O.M.I., a missionary priest, along with the help of a sacristan, rescued the Blessed Sacrament and statue of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle and carried them to safety before the altar was engulfed in flames.

The losses included interior walls of Mexican marble; marble altars; a copy of El Greco's masterpiece of the Trinity; hand-carved statues; 14 hand-carved Stations of the Cross imported from Germany; beautiful stained glass windows; a marble railing and baptismal font, all imported from Spain; a life-sized crucifix that was carved in wood by Julio Beobide, the same artist who created the crucifix for the monument of the Valley of the Fallen in Spain; and giant murals which represented 17 years of work by Spanish artist Bartolome Mongrell.
After the shrine was destroyed, the shrine's dining room temporarily housed the statue of Our Lady of San Juan.
Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick separated the administration of the shrine from the parish in November 1972. He made plans to build a parish church on the site of the destroyed shrine and build a bigger church to serve as the shrine on the grounds north of the former shrine. The groundbreaking for the new shrine took place on November 27, 1976.

The new shrine, which seats 3,500 people, was dedicated on April 19, 1980. Cardinal Medeiros joined Bishop Fitzpatrick at the dedication along with an estimated 50,000 people. The beautifully landscaped grounds feature the 14 Stations of the Cross, and a 45-foot mosaic on the exterior of the shrine was completed in 1995. The mosaic features Jesus presenting his Mother to the Valley, and can be seen from Expressway 83.
During Bishop Raymundo J. Peña's episcopacy in the Diocese of Brownsville, 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. The designation as a basilica at the time made it one of 43 minor basilicas in the United States, and one of only three in Texas.