(RNS) — The Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois, regarded as the most visited monument of its kind in the United States, is asking for donations after its outdoor chapel was set on fire early Tuesday (May 23).
Several statues, art pieces and the outdoor Chapel of the Resurrected Christ, also known as the “Altar of Miracles,” sustained damage estimated to total more than $78,000, officials said.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe has raised more than $9,000 since launching a GoFundMe on Wednesday.
“Although we are very saddened by the painful vandalism, we wish that through the help of our community, we can reconstruct the outdoor Chapel of the Resurrected Christ … together we will rebuild this sacred space,” read a statement on GoFundMe.
The Des Plaines pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe — in honor of her feast day — is considered to be the largest in the U.S.
Hundreds of thousands travel to the shrine by horse, foot and semi trucks to make pleas and promises to the Virgin Mary. Many make vows to visit the Virgin at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The shrine estimated that during her feast day last December, more than 400,000 people made their way to the site to pay their respects to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Only Mexico City’s observance of the feast is thought to be larger.
The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the shrine, told Catholic News Agency that pilgrims who gravitate toward the chapel leave written petitions, candles, photographs or locks of hair of loved ones.
The chapel houses a large statue of Jesus that was “totally demolished” by the flames, according to CNA.
A 41-year-old woman was charged late Tuesday with felony arson, police said. Surveillance footage shows a woman throwing crosses, statues, rosaries and other objects to apparently stoke the flames.
Police arrived at the scene after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and saw the woman “quickly walking away” from the fire. Officers noticed soot on the front of her clothes and detained her, police said.
The shrine is celebrating its 10th anniversary in June with Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, and Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, the archbishop of Mexico City, listed as the guests of honor.