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 | By Theresa Stratford

Celebrating the ‘Lord of Miracles’

St. Mary Magdalene Church has made a point of celebrating the various traditions and cultures that make up the diverse Simpsonville parish. One of those traditions is Peruvian and is called the Lord of Miracles.

As the story goes, a man from what is now the country of Angola in west Africa was enslaved in Lima, Peru. He painted an image of the crucified Christ (Cristo moreno, or brown Christ) on the adobe wall of an old warehouse in 1651. In the image, Mary and St. John stand on either side of the cross, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove and above all, God the Father blesses Christ and holds an orb.

In 1655, an earthquake shook Peru and thousands were killed. The warehouse collapsed entirely — except for the wall adorned with the painting. As reports of miracles began to occur at the site, a small chapel was eventually built, and the painting became known as the “Lord of Miracles.”

Another earthquake shook the country in 1687. A deadly tidal wave accompanied it, and the chapel was destroyed. However, the adobe wall with the image of the Lord of Miracles remained intact. A church was built on the site, incorporating the image behind the main altar.

Originally, the devotion spread among those who were enslaved, and because the image survived so many disasters and miracles continued to occur, a tradition began of honoring the image and all that it represents. A first procession was held on Oct. 20, 1687, after the earthquake. A replica of the painting was taken to the streets to bless people.

The first time St. Mary Magdalene parish celebrated the feast was in 2009. Every year on the second Sunday of October, parishioners walk with a replica of the Lord of Miracles around the parking lot of the church. Groups and various ministries are gathered at different stations to pay tribute and receive a blessing. The 2023 procession, which always follows a dedication Mass, took place Oct. 8.

Lourdes Hoxit is the leader of the ministry of the Lord of Miracles at St. Mary Magdalene. She said during the ceremony’s procession, different ministries at the stations will offer flowers, sing songs and pray. She said they walk the painting to homes that request it throughout the month of October. They also bless children. 

“It is a very beautiful act,” Hoxit explained. “Parents will present their children in the hopes of receiving the blessing of the Lord of Miracles during this tour.” 

She added that it wasn’t until 2005 that the Lord of Miracles was declared a patron saint of Peruvians and immigrants. Since then, the tradition has grown worldwide. 

In New York City, for example, St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrates by processing with a replica to a neighboring parish, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, where many families from Peru attend.

The color purple is worn because it is the historic color of the habit worn by the Madres Nazarenas Carmelitas Descalzas (Discalced Carmelite Nazarene Mothers), the religious order who are the custodians of the image.

“From my point of view, this tradition is celebrated for nostalgia,” Hoxit explained. “Our parish is made up of different nationalities, including Mexican, Salvadorians, Colombians and Americans with Peruvian descent, as well as Peruvians. The procession is celebrated in almost all South American countries. When it arrived in Greenville, it caused immense joy to the entire Latino population and curiosity among other cultures.” 

With a population of about 23,000 in Simpsonville, over 8% is Hispanic — nearly double that of Columbia and Charleston.

“I am convinced that the Lord of Miracles addresses all cultures,” Hoxit said. “We all carry Christ in our hearts, and just as we all carry our own crosses, watching us carry the Lord of Miracles reaches the hearts of every person.”

Theresa Stratford is a freelance writer for The Miscellany. She lives in Charleston with her husband and three children and attends the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Email her at