Parishes throughout the Province with large Hispanic communities celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, a day that symbolizes faith and includes an appearance of the Virgin Mary.
Celebrated with roses, tamales and morning songs, the feast day is a favorite among Catholics of Mexican descent. They remember the miracles that occurred in 1531 to Juan Diego, including the appearance of the Virgin Mary, as signs of God at work in their lives.
“This feast is so important in the lives of people from Mexico and Central America, because it represents a moment when God clearly was revealed as on the side of the poor,” said John Anglin, OFM, in a recent entry on his blog.
“At a time when the Spanish missionaries and Church leaders were debating as to whether the native peoples even had a soul, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego and imprinted an image of herself on his cloak for him to show to the bishop,” he wrote.
John, a member of the Province’s Ministry of the Word, who lives at St. Anthony Friary in St Petersburg, Fla., celebrated the feast this year at a Hispanic parish in Pahokee, Fla., and posted a video of the Mass.
New Jersey Commemorations
At St. Bonaventure Parish, in Paterson, N.J., a group of approximately 70 parishioners gathered for a special celebration on the night of Dec. 11.
“We began with a prayer service in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, followed by a dinner featuring a wide variety of food from various Latin-American countries,” said Christopher VanHaight, OFM. During dinner, the movie “Guadalupe” was shown, which tells the story of how Our Lady appeared to Diego. It ties in with the story of a group of modern Christians struggling with their faith, according to Chris. After the movie, parishioners enjoyed desserts while singing songs to the Blessed Mother.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, N.J., where Jud Weiksnar, OFM, is the pastor, celebrated the feast with the singing of 4 a.m. mañanitas in the rose-filled church with the help of a Mexican conjunto of musicians, followed by the 5 a.m. Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent and finally a breakfast of tamales, sweet breads, champurrado and hot chocolate bringing the early morning celebration to a close. At the 9:30 a.m. Mass, parishioners — mainly children dressed as Juan Diego and other Guadalupana faithful — came to Mass to honor the Virgin, led in song by mariachis, said Kristen Zielinski-Nalen, parish director of Hispanic Ministry. Photos of the Camden parish’s festivities appear on the Facebook pages of St. Anthony of Padua Church and School and the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.
In Wilmington, Del., the community of St. Paul Church, which has the largest Hispanic population in the city and holds Spanish Masses each week, posted photos of the feast on its website. The parish celebrated both on the feast day and the week before. Many parishioners watched as the torch for Our Lady of Guadalupe passed through the city on Dec. 5 on its way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City for the feast. It started out in Florida on Oct. 3 and was carried by bicyclists riding up the East Coast.
For the past several years, St. Paul’s has hosted the torch as it passes through Delaware. Dozens of runners accompanied the torch, said Todd Carpenter, OFM, pastor, adding that “parishioners gathered on the steps of St. Paul’s eagerly awaiting the torch, singing folkloric songs. After it arrived, we moved inside the church for a formal welcoming, blessing and more singing. The torch runners enjoyed a hot meal and then we continued with a rosary and Mass. The following weekend, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at all the weekend Masses. The Mexican community decorated the church beautifully with hundreds and hundreds of roses. The ‘big’ Guadalupe Mass is always on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. It was a standing-room only crowd. Perhaps as many as a thousand people filled the church. After Mass, all were invited to share some tamales and atole, Mexican hot chocolate, in the school hall.”
The parish also includes Aguinaldo Masses and the Posadas in its pre-Christmas festivities. The Aguinaldo Masses are nine days of pre-dawn (6 a.m.) Masses followed by breakfast in parishioners homes, Todd said. “This is a popular Puerto Rican tradition. In the evenings, the Mexicans celebrate Posadas by visiting homes and singing songs reenacting Mary and Joseph’s search for a place for Jesus to be born.”
The arrival of the torch was covered by The News Journal of Wilmington, and quoted Todd.
In the South
At St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Va., parishioners had a novena of rosaries the week before, sharing a statue of the Lady, according to John Heffernan, OFM. “We had mañanitas at 5 a.m., serenaded by DC Mariachi. The group sang the mañanita, as little children danced. Two parishioners read Isaiah prophecies and offered testimonials, followed by Mass that ended at 7 a.m. Four hundred people later enjoyed a light breakfast,” he said.
Daniel McLellan, OFM, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., said that a novena was said in parishioners’ homes for the feast day celebration. On Dec. 12, the church opened at midnight for a steady stream of people who joined in prayer and song before the main shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Close to 1,300 participated in a 4 a.m. Mass, which was followed by cocoa and breads,” said Daniel. “During the morning English Masses, people came with flowers to a special shrine set up in the church chapel. Later in the day, despite a cold rain, 400 people processed through the city’s neighborhood, returning to the church for Mass at 5 p.m.”
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is always a festive commemoration in the Province’s ministries.
— Wendy Healy, a writer based in Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. Jocelyn Thomas contributed to this article.