The territory of Mexico was a mission of the North American Province, as well as Canada and the United States of America. Fr. Cassien Dubost (1891-1954), an Assumptionist religious of French origin, belonging to the North American Province, who was pastor of the Hispanic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in New York City and a great devotee of the “Guadalupana,” came on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the papal coronation of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Mexico and Empress of America.
At that time, Mexico was under the anti-clerical persecution of President Calles, which was the dawning of the great lack of priests. From there came the idea of trying to establish an Assumptionist foundation in Mexico to spread the charism of the congregation. It should be noted that already in the 1940's the Assumptionist Fathers came to mission with some young Americans.
On his return to New York, Father Casiano took advantage of the occasion of the Provincial Chapter of the Assumptionists to suggest the proposal of a foundation in Mexico. In 1946, Father Wilfried Dufault, Provincial Superior of North America, taking into account Father Cassien's suggestion, thus, appointed him to be in charge of the new foundation, and Father Bernard Guillet as his companion. The two stayed with the Augustinian Fathers at Sta. Teresita in Lomas de Chapultepec.
A few days later, Fr. Cassien, accompanied by the provincial treasurer of the OSA, Fr. Ignacio Flores, visited Msgr. Luis Ma. Martínez, Archbishop Primate of Mexico, who gave Fr. Casiano permission to look for a possible Assumptionist foundation in his Archdiocese.
Beginnings of the Foundation
After many attempts throughout the country, especially Acapulco, Guerrero, La Votiva in Paseo de la Reforma, Xochimilco, a site worthy of the beginning of an Assumptionist foundation was not found. There were plans to build a church dedicated to St. Joseph in San José Insurgentes but because the neighborhood was still in the process of urbanization, the project had not been carried out yet. There was only a small chapel.
At the suggestion of the committee of Caballeros Guadalupanos and by approval of Msgr. Luis Ma. Martínez, Archbishop Primate of Mexico, to keep alive the memory of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the Virgin of Guadalupe as Empress of America, a chapel or church was to be built.
On December 12, 1945, the first stone was laid and the work of what would become the provisional sanctuary of the Empress of America was blessed. At that time, the chapel belonged to the parish of Santo Domingo de Guzmán de Mixcoac. Its first chaplain was Father Benigno Ugalde, a diocesan priest.
The designation of Fr. Cassien as chaplain of the Shrine was suggested by Rev. Fr, José A. Romero, a Jesuit priest, who knew him for his great qualities and his great love for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
On February 24, 1947, Archbishop Luis Maria Martinez, Archbishop Primate of Mexico, signed the document in which he entrusted the shrine to the Assumptionists and appointed Fr. Cassien as chaplain. Shortly after, with the respective authorizations and permits, the title of "Chapel of St. Joseph" was changed to "Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico and Empress of America".
Fr. Cassien dreamed of turning the small chapel into a great sanctuary, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of America.
Origin of the name of the parish
According to Father Cassien, the new invocation as Empress of America added to the glorious title of Our Lady of Guadalupe is due to the great and happy initiative of Pope Pius XII, who, in the midst of the grandiose celebrations of the Coronation of the miraculous image in 1945, at the moment when he was addressing his Radio-Message to all America, moved by a heavenly inspiration, exclaimed: 'Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe, Empress of America and Queen of Mexico! And since then all Latin America, after the Pontiff of Rome, hails the Virgin of Guadalupe as its exalted Empress.
The Emperatriz de America Parish, better known as the Church of "La Bola", because it is located in front of the park that has in its center a big white ball, but also because of the peculiar shape of its dome. This parish is located on 99 Mercaderes Street, Colonia San José Insurgentes, Benito Juárez, Mexico City.
First visit of the Provincial
In November 1947, Father Wilfried Dufault a.a., Provincial Superior of North America at that time, anxious to see the reality of the new foundation, made a visit to Mexico. He was very happy to get to know the foundation, even in its beginning and organizational period.
In fact, the first superior of the mission was its founder, Father Cassien Dubost a.a. In March 1951, he was replaced in this responsibility by Father Jean-Paul Trottier a.a. (1913-2004).
Organization of the first Kermés
In view of the construction work that was about to begin, the new foundation, under Father Cassien’s drive, began to look for ways to raise the necessary funds, encouraging the parishioners to actively participate in this important project of the future parish. Thus, the first Kermés of the new parish was organized.
At the same time, in order to maintain constant communication with the parishioners and to guarantee the good circulation of information, on October 2, 1948, the monthly bulletin of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was started, which would be called: 'Entre Rios'.
Likewise, the first Kermés was held on Sunday, November 28, 1948. Its realization was preceded by a time of preparation. The first preparation meeting took place on Thursday, November 4. All the so-called 'Kermés workers' participated in this meeting. Different responsibilities were distributed, as well as tickets, flyers and posters.
In 1947 the work of the provisional chapel began and the parish project was planned by Father Cassien Dubost, a.a. The parish hall was used for the celebrations for the time being.
Three years later, precisely on April 23, 1950, the chapel was solemnly blessed by Bishop José de Jesús Manríquez y Zárate. Thus, part of a project elaborated by renowned architects and approved by the ecclesiastical authorities came to fruition.
Construction of crypts
After the blessing of the new chapel, Father Cassien encouraged the parishioners to continue working, reminding them that the work had not stopped and would continue at the pace that everyone could or would like. On December 8, 1951, the first stone for the construction of the crypts was laid and blessed. In the same year, the excavation of the crypts was carried out.
At the outset of 1953, work began on the crypts under the direction of the architect in charge, Mr. Juan Álvarez Domenzain, a faithful and dedicated friend and advisor of Fr. Cassien, and it was expected to be finished in December of the same year to be able to celebrate Christmas Mass in the new chapel of the crypts.
On January 22, 1954, Father Cassien Dubost died suddenly of a myocardial infarction while supervising the construction work. He could no longer be a witness to the great work he had begun by God's will. Father Bernard Guillet carried on as chaplain.
After the sudden death of Father Cassien, the "Comité Guadalupano", formed by Rafael Iglesias, José Cano Flores, Salvador Madero, Gabriel Monterrubio, María Lavalle, Jesús Ugarte and many other members of the different commissions, organized a meeting in which Father Provincial, Father Henry Moquin a.a., as well as a good number of parishioners of the community participated.
The objective of the meeting was to encourage everyone to continue with the activities planned in order to raise the necessary funds to continue the work.
Celebration of the patronal feast
On October 12, 1954, the patronal feast of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of America and Queen of Mexico was celebrated.
It should be noted that because of the celebration of the Day of La Raza, the date of October 12th was chosen as the date for the celebration of the anniversary of the parish. Thus, besides having its own patronal feast, it is respected that December 12, solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the heritage of all Latin America.
The program for this solemn day included Mañanitas and mass at 5:00 a.m., communion masses at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.; the solemn mass at 10:30 a.m., presided by Fr. José Clemente Flores, Provincial Superior of the Augustinians (Province of Michoacán), accompanied by three concelebrants. The musical part covered by a large choir accompanied by an orchestra performing the Mass 'Jucunda' by Franco Vittadini. The organ was played by the distinguished Maestro Jesús Estrada.
Then a nuptial mass of Santa Marta Alnarde R. and Victor Torres was celebrated. At 7:00 p.m. the Solemn service of 'La Salve' was performed with a rosary being sung, the offering of flowers and the solemn blessing with the Blessed Sacrament.
At the end, the singing of the “Guadalupana” Hymn was performed. The Literary-Musical evening in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe concluded the solemn day in our Cultural Hall. It was a moment of a lot of excitement and great joy.
Inauguration of crypts
After several months of hard work and dedication, the crypts were inaugurated. The event took place on March 19, 1954, with the solemn blessing by Archbishop Luis María Martínez. The first remains to be deposited in it were those of Father Cassien Dubost, a.a.
Since then, they leave the provisional temple. In order to make this marvelously elaborated work profitable, an announcement from the Hall of Cultural Events invited the parishioners to reserve niches for their deceased.
On the initiative of German Genette a.a., this chapel became the parish hall that we still use today. In the beginning, films were shown to raise funds for the parish work.
Also in the same year, on October 12, the St. Vincent House was blessed at 18 Cordobanes Street. This house had a breakfast room for children, a supply room, a closet, a nursery, classrooms and enough space for children's toys. The clinic and pharmacy were planned for the ground floor.
Construction of the church
When the construction of the crypts was finished, all efforts were directed towards the construction of the new parish church. Everything began in a small improvised chapel, with wooden walls and a tin roof, on the land where the church as we know it today would be built.
In order to continue with the construction of the upper church, Fr. Mauricio continued to organize events to raise funds. The success of Kermés year after year was remarkable.
While some were pleased with the design of the temple, there were many who were against it. Many wanted to keep what they had always seen, and were against the few who wanted something different, something out of the custom. They began to build the ogives that support the dome.
Canonical erection of the parish
In August 1955, before traveling to New York where he had been appointed pastor of Nuesta Señora de la Esperanza, Fr. Bernard Guillet, who replaced Fr. Cassien as chaplain of the Shrine, after writing a report on the activities of the Shrine since its foundation, requested its elevation to the status of a parish. This request met with a positive response from the authorities of the Archdiocese of Mexico.
On Thursday, November 21, 1957 at 7:00 p.m., the canonical erection of the Emparatriz de America Parish took place. With representation and delegation of the Primate Archbishop of Mexico, Msgr. Francisco Orozco Lomelí, Titular Bishop de Vita and Vicar General of Mexico executed the Decree of Erection.
A solemn mass was celebrated with the presence at the Seat of the Primate Archbishop of Mexico, Msgr. Francisco Orozco Lomeli, which during the mass Monsignor Enrique Glennie solemnly to occupied the Chair and the first parish priest of the Emparatriz de America, of Canadian Origin Father Mauricio Gagnon, a.a. sang. In the same year, Father Francis Soutberg, a.a., arrived to collaborate in the newly erected parish.
In June 1961, Father Maurice Gagnon returned to Canada after six years as parish priest of the Emparatriz de America. Father Jean-Paul Trottier was sent to replace as parish priest to prepare the solemn blessing and inauguration of the upper church by Bishop Miguel Dario Miranda on February 12, 1963.
From its foundation to date, the Emparatriz de America Parish continues its apostolic journey, spreading the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, inspired by the charism of the Augustinians of the Assumption.
Many generations of lay people, young religious in formation, as well as Augustinian of the Assumption Fathers have passed through this Shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, Empress of America, at the service of the Kingdom of God.
On October 12 of this year, the parish will celebrate its patronal feast. May God continue to bless the apostolic work of the Augustinians of the Assumption in this parish and may your Kingdom come in Mexico!
-Magazine 'Entre Rios', Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1948.
-P. Gary Perron, Fr. Teodoro Asarta, Carmelita Monterrubio, Lupita Belmont, Patricia Páramo, Yolanda Rocha, María Urrutia, "50 años. 1947 - 1997. La Asunción en México. Parroquia Emperatriz de América," 1997.
-Jean Paul Perrier-Muzet, a.a., Tour du monde assomptionniste en 41 pays, in
Cahierdu bicentenaire d’Alzon, n°1, 2010.
-Rafael Huerta Ramos, a.a., Exposición elaborada en torno a la fiestapatronal de la parroquia Emperatriz de América, diciembre 2020.
-Photographs from the parish archives scanned by Fernando Díaz. 1947-2005.
Fr. Sébastien Bangandu Mwanza, a.a.