The Gala for Life is under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is HER story.
Summary – On 9 December 1531, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego and asked for chapel in his honour. On 12 December, Juan Diego was more worried about his uncle. Our Lady appeared and said that he had been healed. She said pick the roses, and take them to the Bishop as a sign. When Juan Diego opened the tilma, the roses fell out and there on the cloak was a miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A chapel was built on Tepayac Hill (pictured) and you can visit Our Lady and she will hear your prayers.
Famous words – On 12 December, Our Lady spoke so consolingly to Juan Diego. Full quote – “Listen. Put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightened you is nothing; do not let it disturb you; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any hurtful thing. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?… … Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness pressure you with grief, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well.”
On 9 December 1531, the first miracle occurred when Our Lady appeared to an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico.
She said, “Know for certain, my dearest and youngest son, that I am the Perfect ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the One great God of Truth who gives us life, the Creator of people…
“I want them to build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest; I will give Him to the people in all my personal love…because I am truly your compassionate Mother”.
Our Lady told Juan to ask Bishop Juan de Zumarraga to build a church on Tepeyac Hill but the Bishop wanted a sign. She told Juan to come back the next day but his uncle became gravely ill. On 12 December, while on his way to get a priest to prepare his uncle, Juan met Our Lady. He explained this to Our Lady.
She said, “Listen. Put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightened you is nothing; do not let it disturb you; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any hurtful thing. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness pressure you with grief, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well.”
At that very moment his uncle miraculously became well and Our Lady gave him her name: the Perfect Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe.
In that same apparition, Juan Diego told Our Lady that the Bishop wanted a sign. Our Lady asked Juan to go up Tepeyac Hill to pick some flowers - Juan knew no flowers ever grew there but did so anyway.
Miraculously, he saw fragrant fresh flowers, cut them and brought them to Our Lady, who arranged them on his tilma, to take to the Bishop as the sign he had asked for.
Juan went down the hill to see the Bishop.When Juan saw the Bishop, he untied his tilma and Castilian Roses fell to the floor.
Suddenly, the Image of the Mother of God miraculously appeared on Juan’s tilma, in the form and figure that you see now. This image is widely venerated throughout the world.Needless to say, a chapel was then built on Tepeyac Hill, which you can visit to this day.
When the chapel was completed, there was a huge celebration, with Indian dancers shooting arrows in the air. One was accidentally shot through the neck and died. As his body was brought to Our Lady’s Icon, everyone present begged for Our Lady’s intercession. He came back to life with scars on either side of his neck as proof of this very first public Miracle.
What miracle of healing - spiritual, physical, mental, social, psychological, financial, relational or any other kind of personal problem - do you need? Ask Mother Mary for her help. She is your compassionate mother. She is always ready to help.
At that time, the Aztecs offered human sacrifices to their sun and moon gods. They realised Our Lady’s Image was a Codex using their symbols.They were amazed since absolutely no one on earth had painted her beloved Image.
in a span of 7 years, more than 8 million Aztecs were converted to Christianity and their culture of death was replaced with a culture of life. St Juan Diego’s Tilma with Our Lady’s Image is still with us to this very day, waiting for you to visit her at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The Most Meaningful Symbols on the Image
The Aztecs read the symbolism in this image and were won over completely. The analysis of the symbols below is courtesy of this information sheet developed by the Steubenville Press 2013.
Mary wore a turquoise robe, the same colour worn by Aztec royalty. Hence she is considered by the Aztecs to be a queen, since only the emperor wears this colour.
Mary is standing in front of the sun’s rays. This was a clear sign to the Aztecs that she was greater than their dreaded sun-god, Huitzilopochtli, whom the Aztecs called “the Lover of Hearts and the Drinker of Blood”. Read more here.
Every major Aztec city had a temple pyramid, approximately 100 feet high, on top of which was erected an altar. Upon this altar, the Aztec priests offered human sacrifices by cutting out the beating hearts of their victims while still alive.
As the victims perished, their hearts were held in front of their eyes. Then the temple priest would hack off their arms and legs, throwing them to the crowd below who would take them home to cook and eat. Is this not similar to what happens with a surgical abortion?
The black cross on the gold brooch at her neck was exactly the same as the one on the Spanish soldiers’ uniform, indicating her religion was synonymous with theirs.
The ribbon and tassels indicate she is a noble woman who is pregnant. For the Aztecs, the trapezoid shaped ends signify the end of one cycle of time and the beginning of a new era.
The angel supporting Our Lady testifies to her royalty. Only royalty would be carried on the shoulders of someone. The angel is transporting the lady to the people as a sign that a new age has come.
The angel resembles a native Indian, not a cherub, but of an Eagle Warrior belonging to the Aztec army, known as “Soldiers of the Sun”. The angel is also said to represent St Juan Diego whose native name was “Cuauhtlatoatzin,” meaning “Eagle who Speaks”.
The crescent moon under her feet symbolise the Aztecs foremost deity, the feathered or stone-serpent god Quetzalcoatl, whom the Atzecs worshipped as the god of the night. By standing on the moon she shows that she is more powerful than the god of darkness whom she vanquishes.
Our Lady’s visit to Mexico almost 500 years ago recorded through the preservation of her miraculous image “is completely beyond scientific explanation”, says research and physicist Dr Adolfo Orozco. Only a miraculous image could survive hundreds of years of ultraviolet radiation and exposure to humid and salty air. Nothing can damage or revoke this holy image, or Our Lady’s eternal, loving care.
The Founding of the Gala for Life
Back in 2015, The Babes Project in Melbourne were doing fantastic work empowering and supporting women in their pregnancies. Their work, their photos, their stories were all so inspirational. So the first three Galas for Life were fundraising dinners in support of The Babes Project and always held “on the last Saturday of Summer”.
The first Gala for Life was called “Swingin’ It: a Tennis, Dinner & Swing Dance,” and held in February 2015. It was held at Henson Park Hardcourt Tennis Club in Marrickville and raised funds for The Babes Project in Melbourne. The life-affirming imagery of the beautiful mums and bubs, baby bumps, and sisterhood at the centre of the work of the Babes Project was perfect. This popular event called for a follow up.
Two years later, copying the same format, we held the first official Gala for Life in February 2017 at Warringah Bowls Mosman. This popular event raised funds for the The Babes Project and their Rewriting Motherhood book. Our Keynote Speaker Linda Torres, founder of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Australia. The Gala for Life 2017 was significant in that it was here that Australia was introduced to the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe with an affiliated member of the Shrine in Mexico.
Two years on, with an even bigger Gala for Life community, we held a Tennis and Dinner Gala for Life at Marconi Tennis & Squash followed by dinner at Cucina Galileo in February 2019. We grew to have our first politician speak. Keynote Speakers included Hugh McDermott MP for Prospect; Donna Garland, Operations Director for Women’s and Newborn Health at Westmead Hospital; and Linda Torres, Founder of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Australia. This popular event again raised money for The Babes Project.
The February 2021 Gala for Life event looked radically different from the first three events. It was 2x bigger than previous events, more fun and more glamorous than before, with 150+ people from all walks of life drawn to the event in support of Diamond Women.
Keynote speakers included Tanya Davies MP for Mulgoa; Guy Zangari MP for Fairfield; Jennifer Gurry, Diamond Women Founder; and Preethy Abraham Diamond Women Counsellor. The event raised 10x the amount previous dinners had raised and set the standard for all future Galas for Life.
The Founder’s Invitation to America and Mexico
2019 was a pivotal year for pregnancy help centres and galas for life in Australia. In this year, Our Lady of Guadalupe moved to unite Gala for Life with the national and international life-affirming pregnancy help network.
In 2019, Pregnancy Help Australia was celebrating its 40th anniversary and they had invited Lara Malin Wynyard to step up into the role of President. In March that year, Lara called Bridget to see if she could help with PHA event planning. That phone call from Perth to Sydney changed everything. Bridget told Lara she had just organised the 2019 Gala for Life, which had been a huge success and that Yes, she was available to do more.
Lara invited her to come along with her to the 2019 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference in Dallas, Texas in April, and, if possible, join in on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Together, they planned to make the journey from Australia to Texas open to new ideas, to discovering the power of the international network, and ready to build connections.
At the heart of the conference was professional development with talks designed to equip and inspire those working in the pregnancy help space to continue to empower women to choose life. At the exhibition stalls in the foyer, they learnt about the Save the Storks mobile medical units empowering women to choose life as well as the Embrace Grace ministry. The most inspiring part was to see so many different ways to respond to the call to be life-affirming, to help women in need, and to support each other.
After the conference, Lara and Bridget made the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Bridget witnessed the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and then walked up the stairs to the chapel on Tepeyac Hill to pray in the very chapel which Our Lady had asked to be built.
As she said then, she says today: “Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you…” Let anyone you see who is in distress hear these eternal words from Mother Mary.
On the 12th December 2020, Bridget became a founding member of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Australia, she then went on to run her most successful fundraising event to date in 2021.