NEW YORK — Churches throughout the Province, especially those with strong Latino roots, celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the weekend of Dec. 12 to 13.
The feast day, celebrated officially on Dec. 12, is especially significant in Mexico, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a poor Aztec Indian named Juan Diego near Tepayac Hill. On a winter day in 1531, she asked Juan Diego to go to the top of the hill and cut some roses. He cut the roses, placing them in his “tilma,” a poncho-like garment made of cactus fiber. She then asked Juan Diego to give the roses to the bishop, and as he took the roses out from the tilma, an imprint of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained in his garment.
Here are a few ways the day was celebrated in the Province:
In the North
At Holy Name of Jesus Church in New York City, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was celebrated on Dec. 13 at the 10 a.m. Spanish Mass. Traditional mañanitas took place at 6 a.m. on Dec. 12, followed by 9 a.m. Mass.Gonzalo de Jesus Torres, OFM, shown in photo, held a young Juan Diego up to the parish community.
In New Jersey, St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson had a “wonderful Mass for the Vigil of the Feast, on Dec. 11,” said Christopher VanHaight, OFM. “More than 50 parishioners came to honor Our Lady. After the Mass, we processed with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe around the outside of the church, before returning inside for a fiesta that included songs in honor of la Guadalupana, dancing, and lots of food.”
Since St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Long Beach Township, N.J., collaborates with the nearby diocesan parish to offer several Spanish Masses during the year, it was natural for James Scullion, OFM, to preside at Mass at St. Mary of the Pines Church in Manahawkin at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12. The church provided food and gifts for the children there. On Dec. 13, St. Francis Church celebrated with 150 of its own parishioners, beginning with a re-enactment of the visits of the Virgin to Juan Diego.
Many participants were dressed as Juan Diego, with mustaches penciled onto the faces of little boys, and girls colorfully dressed in native costumes. Mass was followed by a potluck fiesta complete with music. Fr. Enrique Montoya, OFM, a visitor from Mexico, presided at Mass, leading the congregation in Spanish responses.
“It was a joyous celebration for our Spanish-speaking community and a good cross-cultural experience for the others who came to support them,” said Sr. Pat Klemm, OSF, a member of the parish staff.
In Camden, St. Anthony of Padua Parish held a variety of commemorations that focused on food, music and a piñata. Scenes of many are posted on the parish Web site, according to Jud Weisksnar, OFM, pastor.
In the Mid-Atlantic
St. Paul Church, Wilmington, Del., offered a multi-day celebration. On Dec. 4, the Guadalupe torch arrived on its way from Mexico City to New York. St. Paul was again the host church for the state of Delaware, welcoming approximately 25 runners from Baltimore at about 5 p.m.
The church had a brief welcoming service and dinner for the runners and guests, who brought by van from Mexico two large paintings of Our Lady of Guadalupe and San Juan Diego. The rosary and a Mass presided by Christopher Posch, OFM, followed that was attended by approximately 400 people. The runners, who were continuing on to Philadelphia, gathered at St. Paul’s on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for a farewell blessing.
On Dec. 11, the church held a feast day Vigil Mass and las mañanitas, traditional folk songs. The day began at 6 a.m. with members of the Mexican community decorating the church and shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe with hundreds of roses. The rosary followed at 7 p.m., with traditional Mexican dancers in festive costumes called chinelos. The Mass took place at 8 p.m., and Todd Carpenter, OFM, presided with approximately 800 people attending. At 11 p.m., the community sang and prayed las mañanitas.
On Dec. 12, for the actual feast day, the community gathered at 7 p.m. for the rosary and Mass, celebrated byMichael Tyson, OFM. The church was packed, according to Todd, with approximately 1,000 people spilling out the doors. Dozens of children processed to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and presented roses to Our Lady. After Mass, all gathered in the school hall for traditional tamales. St. Paul’s young adult group performed a beautiful dramatization of the Apparition of Our Lady to Juan Diego, Todd said. The party continued until midnight.
In the South
At Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., the Feast of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe took place on Dec. 11, with a procession, special music and folkloric dancers, according to William McIntyre, OFM. The final novena took place at 7 p.m., and the church remained open for prayer and devotion until 3 p.m.
On Dec. 12, mañanitas, prayers, songs and devotion began at noon, as mariachis and individual musicians offered religious and folkloric songs throughout the day. Mass took place at 5 a.m., with a light breakfast afterwards. At noon, a neighborhood procession with prayer, folkloric dancers and songs took place, followed by Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day Mass at 2:30.
The festivities of Immaculate Conception parish were featured in the local newspaper.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer, contributes frequently to this newsletter.