Friars and their Latino brothers and sisters gathered earlier this month to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe — the patroness of the Americas — who is officially recognized on Dec. 12.
For some, the feast commemorations began with the annual running of the torch, a flame carried by joggers from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico to St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City. This year, the torch stopped at Immaculate Conception Church, Durham, N.C., on Nov. 29 and at St. Paul’s Church, Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 5.
“This light is a symbol of the light of Jesus, the light of the Virgin Mary. This torch run is not a sport,” explained Yuann Trinidad, of the Asociación Tepeyac de New York, to Delaware Online when the torch visited Wilmington. “It’s a torch for faith and for hope, hope to one day unite immigrant families and hope that we will get immigration reform one day.”
Days of Devotion
Our Lady of Guadalupe is especially significant to Immaculate Conception Parish, which has a large Hispanic population.
“The Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a feast of greatest importance in our community,” said Lawrence Hayes, OFM, pastor. “Since the majority of Latino parishioners are Mexican, December 12 is a moment of singular religious devotion, popular piety and national pride.”
During the nine days preceding the feast day, parishioners prayed a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe in various apartments and trailers of the community, as a statue of Mary was transferred from one home to another, according to Lawrence. The last of the novenas was celebrated in the evening of Dec. 11 in the church, with families bringing their own statues and images of Our Lady of Guadalupe to be blessed.
The church remained open after the novena, and the crowds grew until midnight, when the celebration of the mañanitas began.
“During that prayerful, festive celebration from midnight to 4 a.m., musical groups and soloists sang and prayed songs of praise to Mary as people came and went, bringing ‘roses in December’ for the Virgin and praying to her,” said Larry. “The quantity of flowers was overwhelming, completely filling a side chapel in the church and overflowing into the daily Mass chapel.”
At 4 a.m., with a church almost filled with the faithful, the parish celebrated a festive and reverent feast day Mass in honor of Mary. Afterwards, breakfast was served as members of the Respeto and Angeles en Acción Spanish youth groups danced.
Throughout the feast day, a steady stream of individuals visited the church to bring flowers to Mary and pray to their spiritual mother for help and in gratitude for favors received, according to Larry. In the evening, an hour-long processing through the streets of Durham began at 5:30 p.m., and was followed by a beautiful closing Mass to another packed church at 7 p.m., he noted.
“The devotion and love of the Mexican people for ‘la Morenita’ is, simply, overwhelming,” said Larry, who has been stationed at the Durham parish since 2011.
Processions and Roses
On the Sunday before the feast, the communities of St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., and St. Anthony Parish in Butler, N.J., gathered for an early morning procession between the two parishes. After arriving at St. Mary’s, a bilingual Mass was celebrated, followed by a festive celebration in the Carnevale Center.
“This celebration is a wonderful way to honor the Blessed Mother and to join with our Latino brothers and sisters in celebrating our unity as Americans, North, South and Central,” read St. Mary’s Dec. 8 bulletin.
At St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington, celebrations were held on Dec. 11 and 12. Both days included a 6:30 p.m. rosary and 7 p.m. Mass. A party followed in the parish hall with food, entertainment and folkloric dances, according to pastor Todd Carpenter, OFM.
“We had great celebrations both days,” Todd said. “The Masses were packed with between 800 and, after Mass, 1,000 people each night. Certainly, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the biggest day of the year for us.”
Parishioners donated thousands of roses and beautifully decorated the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe with roses and fruit, according to Todd.
St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson, N.J., arranged two Masses on the feast day: one in English at 11:30 a.m., and one in Spanish at 7 p.m., celebrated by Christopher VanHaight, OFM, pastor.
“We began the Mass by incensing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe amid joyous singing to the Virgin,” Christopher said. “After the Mass, we went downstairs to the hall, where we continued the celebration with music, food, and the distribution of gifts to the children in attendance. A very festive evening.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.