MEXICO CITY — Silvia Baca, an 84-year-old Catholic who volunteers every day at St. Patrick Church in North Hollywood, wasn’t going to be left out of the pope’s trip to Mexico.

“He brought the Church to the people’s level and that’s where it belongs,” she said in an interview with The Tidings in a Mexico City restaurant. “He wants to make [the Church] home. That makes life simple.”

Baca travelled to Mexico City with other parishioners from St. Patrick’s. Having been involved with bilingual education since its inception in California, she’s been living out the pope’s call to serve the marginalized for decades.

“The hope that he brings, it’s really something I wanted to be a part of,” she said, noting ongoing problems in Mexico, where she was born. “He brought a message of hope to the United States. I think he’ll do the same for Mexico. It’ll help get them back to their roots.”

On their first day in Mexico City, the group went directly to the Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, where St. Juan Diego’s tilma resides. The Blessed Mother left her image on the indigenous Catholic’s cloak in 1531.

Delia de Ada, also from St. Patrick’s, said she began to cry as soon as they walked into the sanctuary. As she got closer, she wept.

“I bring all my problems to her and she answers my prayers,” she said. “Go to her and leave your failures, your troubles. She will take care of them.”

Ricardo and Maria Flores called the trip a “great gift.” The couple are originally from Tijuana, but are also parishioners at St. Patrick.

“Just getting to see the Virgin of Guadalupe is incredible, but then adding Pope Francis — what a joy,” said Ricardo, who heads the  Guadalupano group Reina del Tepeyac. He and his wife will attend the Mass with Pope Francis at Ecatepec.

“He will bring peace with him,” Ricardo said of Francis. “He is the representative of God and through a man, God is demonstrating his mercy. Francis opens wide the door of mercy.”

While many in the group had previously visited Mexico, it was a first for Irene Copiozo. The Filipina is part of the Light of Jesus, a charismatic group at the parish.

“To me, this is a miracle,” she said, noting that she’d received financial support from friends for the trip. “It’s like the lotto. Our Lady of Guadalupe never fails me. Our Lady is a great way to get to the heart of Jesus.”