On July 1, 2022 don Ángel Lasheras will complete his first year as rector of Torreciudad. At the age of 67, this smiling and friendly Galician received an assignment that has little to do with the dream of retirement that many people at that age are looking forward to. If today there are still those who use the expression that "you live like a priest", it does not seem that the cliché can be applied in this case.
Many Marian sanctuaries are located in geographically inaccessible places, and Torreciudad is no exception, so it is not so easy for crowds to visit. However, there are exceptions to this, and one of these occasions takes place every year -except for the past two years of Covid- during the first days of September, when many families come to participate in a meeting that has already been held for thirty years.
We also chatted with the rector about the family and other issues related to the pastoral work carried out in Torreciudad.
In Torreciudad, the Virgin Mary turns to her children...
Our Mother reaches out to everyone, especially to those who need it most or those who are farthest away from her Son Jesus. In Torreciudad, the affection of the Blessed Virgin Mary is manifested in simple but continuous miracles. St. Josemaría said that the great miracles of Torreciudad have to do with the interior conversion of souls, especially through confession.
In September you will celebrate the thirtieth edition of the Marian Family Day, what is your assessment of these three decades?
The Marian Family Day has always been one of the great annual events of Torreciudad. And thanks to God and the Virgin it will continue to be so. This year we are going to live it with special illusion after two years of pandemic. We see that many people are eager to come and are preparing trips in advance.
We would like Torreciudad to be known as the "sanctuary of the family" because of this large gathering and other family-related activities. For example, in the coming months there will be activities aimed at married couples - "project of married love"-, young professionals and even younger people, in order to deepen the importance of the family nucleus, of the parent-child relationship, of courtship, etc. And we hope to expand the offer of this type of plans for people from all over Spain and throughout the year.
During the day there are offerings to the Virgin, what do they consist of and how can I participate?
It is very simple: families, parishes, schools and associations offer the Virgin flowers, some local products, images of the Virgin that they have brought to leave in the gallery of images in the sanctuary, etc. Ordinarily, they write to us through our website to inform us or even tell us directly on the day of the day. The important thing is to facilitate that the families can participate with enthusiasm and joy, and the whole family united...
In thirty years the family has changed a lot.
Of course, I believe it! The Church is aware of the difficulties faced by married couples, for the Christian family spirit has been diluted.
I suppose what will happen in all the shrines of the Virgin, but in Torreciudad we corroborate that many families come - and not only during the Marian Journey, but also throughout the year - who are recomposed inside for having had an encounter with Mary, or with the sacrament of Penance, or for the atmosphere of peace that is breathed in the sanctuary... The grace of God touches them closely.
It is true that we are not a shrine with the influx of pilgrims that El Pilar, Fatima, Lourdes or Montserrat have, for example, where millions of people come, but we want to keep growing the number of people who come here to pray to the Virgin, also from other countries. We can say that Torreciudad is already an international sanctuary -universal, I would say-, although on a small scale.
The new shrine is on the verge of its 50th anniversary, and we want to continue to relaunch this attractive project for 21st century pilgrims started in 2018 with which we are already seeing abundant fruits in this year after the pandemic.
Do you consider that Torreciudad is sufficiently well known?
Yes and no. Since the new shrine is an initiative of the founder of Opus Dei, many people who are members of the Work or who participate in its apostolates know about it and talk about it, and bring their friends and relatives. But this is one of our main objectives right now: to make Torreciudad known to a much wider public, we have to reach many more people, because this is a house of Our Lady for everyone.
And we see it day after day: it is a marvel to see the arrival of two buses with Chinese Catholics coming from Barcelona and who celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe; or to attend to a large group of faithful from the city of Marseille who brought a reproduction of the Patron Saint of their city, Notre Dame de la Garde; or to welcome a group of parishioners from Mexico with their priest, a Legionary of Christ....
We are also very happy that priests from the surrounding area come with their parishioners, with the children who are preparing for confirmation or communion.
And there are also immigrants residing in Spain...
One of the annual events of the sanctuary is the pilgrimage of the Virgin of Quinche from Quito, in which thousands of Ecuadorians gather in November. And many other citizens of many towns of America come in small pilgrimages with their most beloved invocations. Or the Ukrainians, who celebrate their Eucharist here every year in the Greek-Catholic rite. Even from African countries, such as Equatorial Guinea, also visit us. In this last case, they came in July and the Eucharist was celebrated by the Bishop of Barbastro, Msgr. Angel Perez Pueyo.
The truth is that there are more and more communities, of very varied types, that are finding in Torreciudad a second home.
How are the new evangelizing experiences offered by the sanctuary being received?
Very positive. It is noticeable that many pilgrims come for this reason. The space "Live the experience of faith" offers a very catechetical evangelization, centered on the main points of Revelation. It is a way of highlighting the kerigmaThe original proclamation of the faith through totally modern media: interactive videos, three-dimensional vision glasses... And then there is the experience of the video-mappingI believe that its success is based on the fact that it helps us to pray with it, and that it allows us to contemplate the splendid altarpiece of Torreciudad in a different way, perhaps more intensely, and that is helping to value it even more. I think its success is based on the fact that it helps to pray with it. People leave very moved.
They are making an effort to leave an impression on pilgrims.
Yes, that's right. But we are aware of a reality of the supernatural life: you never know what fruit what you sow will bear, because the fruit is of God and of our Mother the Virgin.
A recent example: this year a Mexican couple from the city of Monterrey came with their three children. They came to give thanks for the life of their grandfather, now deceased. It turns out that the grandfather, in the eighties of the last century, made a course of spiritual retreat in a house of formation of Opus Dei on the outskirts of that city, whose hermitage is dedicated to Our Lady of Torreciudad. We did not know it. In front of that image, the grandfather had a spiritual conversion that led him to treat God more closely.
He was very impressed, so much so that he came to visit the shrine. And he returned to his country so moved that he decided to promote the construction of a church to foster devotion to the Virgin of Torreciudad in his city, Monterrey. And today there is a church in that great Mexican city dedicated to Our Lady of Torreciudad. Just go to Google and check it out: "Nuestra Señora de Torreciudad in Monterrey". We did not know it until now, but we can affirm that it is... the first church in the world dedicated to the Virgin of Torreciudad outside the sanctuary!
To tell you the truth, I would like to go and meet her, and I hope to do so early next year.