CHIMAYO, N.M. (KRQE) – A tradition that people have been missing for the last two years is back in full force Friday. “We’re all excited that it’s open again, it was closed for a couple of years because of COVID. So it looks like a pretty good crowd!” said Orlando Romero of Pojoaque Valley.

Throngs of pilgrims made their way to the El Santuario de Chimayo church, which many believe holds healing powers. However, the journey there, many say, is the most important part. “To me, it’s just a little giving back to everything that He’s allowed us to have and through Him, and with Him everything is possible and He sacrificed and gave a lot and it the least I can do,” said Paul Sandoval, who carried a cross on his shoulder for his pilgrimage.

“We all do things differently. But I think it’s all for the same reason and that’s to honor our lives and people that have passed and the children that are coming up and try to maintain this tradition,” said Romero.

People making the journey Friday say they have different reasons for their trip. “Making a pilgrimage, it’s something that I’ve done every year and when my parents, I lost my parents, I continued it,” Sandoval says. Bernie Lucero, who walked eight miles, gives another reason: “My brother-in-law is from here and we used to walk and the last time he walked with me the doctor told me that would probably be the last time. And he asked me not to quit coming here just cause he’s gonna be gone. He said, ‘keep on coming here.’ And that’s why I’ve been coming here,” said Lucero.

“I’m carrying my cross. This is the cross I carry every year. Depending on if I have any family members that are sick; if I have any family members that passed away like now I have my cousin and my mom,” says Violet Chavez, whose journey Friday was 11 miles.

All those who spoke with News 13 say making the pilgrimage brings them a sense of peace. “It’s tranquility, it’s peace. It’s what we need right now,” Sandoval says. They also say it’s a journey they plan to continue to make for many years to come. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years,” said Lucero. “I give thanks to the guy upstairs that I could make it one more time at my age anyway!”

Church volunteers say people are invited to make the trek day and night all weekend.