A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe is back on its hilltop home in Southeast Rochester.

The statue’s return after a three-month absence for restoration ended with eight miles of processional celebration Sunday.

Latinx parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi on Third Street Southeast escorted the statue back to its spot near the 5200 block of Forest Knoll Drive Southeast, with a moving celebration over eight miles of city streets, across two U.S. Highways, and over gravel roads.

“It’s a very strong devotion for Catholics, especially in the Mexican culture, to celebrate this way,” Father Luis Vargas said.

The restoration of the statue was an opportunity to embrace that cultural celebration, he said.

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“It’s something unique here,” he said. “It was a moment to say, yes, let’s do this here.”

A horseback rider escorts a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe south of Rochester Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. The statue was refurbished and rededicated after celebration and a procession from the church back to its home off Forest Knoll Drive Southeast Sunday. John Molseed / Post Bulletin
A horseback rider escorts a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe south of Rochester Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. The statue was refurbished and rededicated after celebration and a procession from the church back to its home off Forest Knoll Drive Southeast Sunday. John Molseed / Post Bulletin

About two dozen horseback riders accompanied the statue. The procession delighted some onlookers and frustrated a few drivers.

Vargas said he didn’t expect the large turnout, as dozens of vehicles and more than 200 people attended the rededication and prayer service.

Anyone was welcome to join the procession and celebration.

“It’s an opportunity to participate in a public witness to our faith,” said Britt Noser, a member of St. Francis of Assisi.

The statue sits on a hilltop portion of 75 acres of land owned by Mary Herring. She and her husband received the statue as a gift from a Trinitarian order of nuns about five years ago, she said.

Horseback riders wave as they escorts a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. The statue was refurbished and rededicated after celebration and a procession from the church back to its home off Forest Knoll Drive Southeast Sunday. John Molseed / Post Bulletin
Horseback riders wave as they escorts a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. The statue was refurbished and rededicated after celebration and a procession from the church back to its home off Forest Knoll Drive Southeast Sunday. John Molseed / Post Bulletin

It wasn’t in pristine shape then. Five years of exposure to Minnesota weather didn’t help its condition.

Artist Michelle de la Vega and her husband, Jeff Ludwig, restored the statue.

Ludwig repaired the Fiberglas and metal structure and did some painting, while de la Vega did much of the detailed painting, including the statue’s face.

“It needed quite a bit of work,” de la Vega said. “It looks a lot different than it did.”

De la Vega, who is from Nicaragua, said she painted the statue’s face darker than it was before the restoration.

“I felt it was more indicative of her being a Latin American and saint,” she said. “That was intentional.”

Herring said she was glad to see the results.

“It’s in better shape now than it’s ever been,” she said.