Saint Juan Diego was born in 1474 as Cuauhtlatoatzin, a native to Mexico. He became the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas.
When a group of 12 Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico in 1524, he and his wife, Maria Lucia, converted to Catholicism and were among the first to be baptized in the region. Juan Diego was very committed to his new life and would walk long distances to receive religious instruction at the Franciscan mission station at Tlatelolco.
On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was in a hurry to make it to Mass and celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, he was stopped by the beautiful sight of a radiant woman who introduced herself, in his native tongue, as the "ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God." Mary told Juan Diego she was the mother of all those who lived in his land and asked him to make a request to the local bishop. She wanted them to build a chapel in her honor there on Tepeyac Hill, which was the site of a former pagan temple.
Juan took her request to the bishop right away and, after some convincing and proof that included Mary's image being imprinted on Juan's cloak and beautiful roses suddenly growing and blooming in December, her church was built. The first miracle surrounding the cloak occurred during the procession to Tepeyac Hill when a participant was shot in the throat by an arrow shot in celebration. After being placed in front of the miraculous image of Mary, the man was healed.
Juan Diego moved into a little hermitage on Tepeyac Hill, and lived a solidarity life of prayer and work. He remained there until his death on December 9, 1548, 17 years after the first apparition.
One of our homes, in the Community Outreach and Disability Service in Edmonton, has chosen St. Juan Diego and their patron saint because "St. Juan Diego was a simple, humble man who preferred to let his actions speak louder than his words when he introduced his people to the gospel message. At this home, we strive (both the individuals and the staff) to let our actions relay the message of God's love. Also, he was an Indigenous saint and 50% of the residents are Indigenous (Aboriginal)."