Lilian Tekwe has always felt a special connection to Our Lady. She remembers growing up as a Cadet of Mary in her native Cameroon, praying the Rosary and hearing the fascinating stories of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima. She could only grow in her devotion when Our Lady reached out to Lilian at a crucial moment in her adulthood. For reasons she couldn’t begin to understand until later, it was Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A mystical experience
In early 2018, Lilian and her husband Carlos attended a monthly prayer session in Douala, a coastal city near their home in Cameroon. Events of this kind attracted hundreds of faithful from miles around, and miracles were known to happen. At this particular gathering, nearly a thousand people had come together for a full day of intense prayer and worship.
That evening, as Lilian knelt in prayer, something strange happened. Her body suddenly became rigid and she couldn’t speak. Her hands locked tightly together, fingers interlaced. She lost all awareness of her surroundings and began to shake. The people around her scrambled to help, but nothing worked. In a trance-like state, Lilian was pulled forward, lurching stiffly on her knees, toward the foot of the altar. There she remained, with her forehead on the floor, for over two hours. People sang and prayed over her, but only when they implored Mary to intercede did her body relax. Finally, Lilian fell asleep there at the foot of the altar.
When she awoke much later, nearly everyone had gone home. A priest came and spoke to her. “Do you know what happened?” he asked. No, she answered, confused.
“Do you know Our Lady of Guadalupe?” he continued. Again, no.
“She was the one,” he announced. “I don’t know why she came. Maybe she is preparing you for something. You should start calling on her in your prayers.”
Lilian was baffled. She had never even heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. But she trusted the priest, so she decided to learn about Our Lady of Guadalupe and began a devotion to her.
A treacherous journey
Months later, the political situation in Cameroon worsened. Lilian’s family was in grave danger and had to flee immediately. At first they planned to go to Italy, but when Lilian couldn’t get visas for her two boys, they changed their plan. Ecuador was visa-free, so they decided to fly there instead and then travel to the United States through Central America.
Upon arrival in Ecuador, the frightened family found a hotel. Lilian dreaded the next stage of their journey. She knew the trip through Central America would be dangerous, and with all her heart she prayed for strength. An answer came when she entered the hotel and her eyes landed on a familiar image—a radiant picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on display in the lobby. Lilian caught her breath as she heard a voice say, “I have prepared you for this journey. Be strong.”
Her elation was short-lived. Soon the family set out, and their trip north was far more treacherous than imagined. They found themselves trusting complete strangers with their lives. It was only by the grace of God that they survived, Lilian says. “I don’t even want to think about it,” she adds, shaking her head. “We did all kinds of things. We saw all kinds of things.”
But one thing that Lilian saw kept her going. As Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image was everywhere—statues, pictures, shrines by the roadside—and as her family made their way from one point to the next, Lilian finally understood the miracle that had taken place at the prayer session all those months ago.
Our Lady of Guadalupe—or “Mama,” as Lilian now calls her–had known what lay ahead for Lilian’s family and had reached out to introduce herself so Lilian would recognize her at her time of need. “She knew we would have to suffer,” Lilian explains, “And she told me, ‘I will be there for you.’”
Finding Our Lady of Guadalupe in her new home
After reaching the United States, Lilian’s family settled in west Des Moines, Iowa, and to Lilian’s surprise, Our Lady had yet another blessing in store.
Lilian longed to attend Mass and give thanks to God for guiding her family to safety. When a neighbor told her about a Catholic church nearby, she wasted no time. As her family entered the Parish Center at Sacred Heart, the first thing Lilian saw was a room dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When they continued toward the sanctuary, there was Our Lady of Guadalupe again—this time as a beautiful statue surrounded by flowers and candles.
“It’s her,” Lilian gasped. “It’s Mama.” In that tearful moment she knew that she and her family had found their new parish home, all due the loving intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“She is doing so much for me, and she keeps doing it every day,” Lilian says with gratitude. “She brought me here.”