The Walmart Neighborhood Market in suburban San Diego has something no other Walmart has.
“It’s the only Walmart in the world with a plaque of our Blessed Mother,” said Father Richard Brown, who has been a priest in the area for more than 40 years.
On Wednesday, Father Brown blessed the mosaic of the Virgin Mary that’s displayed on the outside of the Walmart building.
The Walmart caused controversy when construction began in April 2012. Building the store meant partially demolishing the iconic Farmers Market building on Imperial Avenue, which had been part of the community for nearly a century.
Although construction was briefly halted because of the protests, a Superior Court judge ruled that construction could continue. The grocery store opened last summer.
To maintain some of the building’s history, Walmart restored, reframed and reattached the Mary mosaic that had been part of the old building for years.
“It’s something the community members asked for, the business owners asked for,” said store manager Luciano Villela. “We’re very happy to please the community by doing this.”
“I grew up not too far from here, a few miles south of here, in a community similar to this. I understand the importance Our Lady of Guadalupe has in Hispanic Catholic communities,” Villela added.
Despite the opposition, Father Brown said the Walmart has been a blessing for the area, which didn’t have a full-service grocery store until now.
“I know some people are upset, but it doesn’t matter,” Brown said. “We’re serving the people.”
The dedication took place one day before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
First published December 12 2013, 6:43 AM