Last Wednesday, a first for Walmart: At their new Walmart Neighborhood Market in the Sherman Heights neighborhood of San Diego, a Catholic priest blessed a mosaic plaque of the Virgin Mary that’s embedded in the exterior wall.
Father Richard Brown, senior priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in San Diego, said, “It’s the only Walmart in the world with a plaque of our Blessed Mother.”
Walmart was immersed in controversy in 2012, when they announced plans to open a store on the site of an iconic Farmer’s Market building on Imperial Avenue. The new construction meant that part of the 100-year-old Farmer’s Market would have to be demolished. The project was briefly halted after citizens protested; but a Superior Court judge ruled that the construction could continue, and the grocery store was opened last year.
And Walmart, in an effort to placate local residents who mourned the loss of the Farmers Market, decided to retain the mosaic of the Virgin Mary which had hung on the Market wall. The work was restored, reframed, and installed in the front wall of the new store.
Store manager Luciano Villela, noting the importance which Our Lady of Guadalupe has for Hispanic Catholics, said, “It’s something the community members asked for, the business owners asked for. We’re very happy to please the community by doing this.”
The dedication took place on December 11. The following day, December 12, was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe; and the residents of Sherman Heights were able to celebrate at their neighborhood’s first full-service market.