The Queen of the Americas Guild was founded in July of 1979 by Bishop Jerome J. Hastrich, assisted by Bishop Thomas Drury of Corpus Christi, TX. During the first gathering, 90 participants from across the U.S. gathered at Mt. St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD. The Guild’s purpose was to make known that Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness to all of the Americas. The simplest way was to bring Her Holy image and words to the people. A telegram was sent to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, announcing the launching of the Guild and to ask for his blessing.
In 1980 a second conference was called, also at Emmitsburg. Bishop Hastrich greeted the Guild members with a question, “What can you do for our Lady of Guadalupe, besides pray?”
For years Bishop Hastrich had been taking groups of people to visit the Basilica in Mexico City but found inadequate housing close to the Shrine. One had to depart to the Shrine very early and travel from hotels many miles away in the heart of the city. He thought it would be nice for someone to visit the Shrine and then walk to their hotel. “What we need is a retreat center at the Shrine to house and feed pilgrims from the U.S. and Canada.” He called it a “house of hope and healing at Tepeyac”. “It must be clean and comfortable, at a fair price, and include a chapel where people can reflect on their time spent at the Shrine.” This would be a true pilgrimage.
By the time the third conference was held in Techny, Illinois on August 15, 1981, the nature of the action was growing clearer. Frank Smoczynski, a guild member, was also elected as the National Juan Diego (in more prosaic terms, President of the Guild) at the conference of 1981. Frank Smoczynski and his family had made annual trips to the Basilica. Frank had an ardent devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and knew of the plan for the house of hope and healing.
Several years later when he was visiting the Basilica in Mexico City, like Columbus, Frank discovered land. There was a small parcel of land right near the Basilica at Tepeyac waiting to be claimed for a U.S. house of hope and healing.
Today, the Guild has acquired that parcel of land, and is investigating possible missions for its use. Through the generous contributions and support of its members and followers, the Guild has been able to continue to spread Our Lady’s timeless message of 1531 and will continue to bring groups to the Basilica in Mexico City. The Guild continues to serve as a resource for information, provide a forum that supports and enhances devotion, and to make Americans aware that they have a special Patroness for all the nations of the New World.