(St. Anthony of Padua Church held its annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration on Dec. 10. Pastor “Jud” Weiksnar submitted the report below describing the enthusiasm surrounding the commemoration.)
CAMDEN, N.J. — The Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration has been going on here for 15 years. As the Mexican community has grown in the Camden area, so has the event. Even at the smaller St. Andrew Calpan Mass the week before, a saint special to people from the Puebla region of Mexico, we had on a Wednesday night almost as many people as at a Sunday Mass.
Many people question what seems like going overboard on buying roses and decorating for the feast, and hiring mariachi musicians. First of all, the parish does not spend a cent for that. It’s all covered by donations, especially from two generous families. One of those families has also been generous to the church in other ways, for example, by paying for the installation of new front steps for the church.
For people who still question what looks like extravagance, they need to know how central Our Lady of Guadalupe is to the Mexican psyche. It’s a right-brain phenomenon, and you have to just revel in the moment. Also, some wonder why people turn out for a big feast, but aren’t there Sunday after Sunday. First, some of them are there every Sunday. Also, many are visiting from different parishes just for the feast. Some are usually working on Sunday, but take time off to attend on that day. Others are ripe for evangelization, catechesis, and an invitation to become regular worshippers.
The Guadalupe Mass, held on the Sunday closest to the feast, is the only one all year where we need to open the choir loft to accommodate the overflow. One parishioner, of Eastern European background, didn’t want to leave the church, because she was overwhelmed by how beautiful and spiritual an experience it was. Her daughters convinced her to drive them to the church at 5 a.m. two days later, the actual day of the feast (Dec. 12), for the mañanitas (morning prayers to Mary), rosary, and a breakfast, including hot tamales. Sixty persons, about 80 percent of them Mexican, came that morning.