Parishes Honor Our Lady of Guadalupe

Stephen Mangione  Around the Province

Emerson Rodriguez celebrates Mass

With the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe falling on the same day (Dec. 12) as publication of this edition of the HNP Today newsletter, the article below provides a snapshot into how parishes – most of which have significant Latin-American parishioner populations – around Holy Name Province were planning to pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin. One parish honored Our Lady for 24 hours, while others were up before sunrise showering a statue of the Virgin with flowers. Most parishes processed through the streets of their communities – and all of them celebrated with a Solemn Mass and traditional music, dance and food.

Just as her Son chose ordinary men to be his apostles, Our Lady of Guadalupe delivered her message not to someone with wealth and social stature, but to a simple person in Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin when she appeared to the indigenous Mexican Catholic convert on a hillside near Mexico City. After his first encounter, Juan Diego (who was canonized in 2002 at the Basilica of Guadalupe by Pope John Paul II) reported Our Lady’s request to Mexico’s first archbishop, Franciscan friar Juan de Zumárraga – that he build a sacred house on the hilltop in her honor. The archbishop’s skepticism resulted in a second visit, with the Blessed Virgin directing Juan Diego to gather flowers in his cloak and present them as proof to the archbishop. Astonished that the flowers came from a barren hillside in the middle of winter, the archbishop dropped to his knees to find Our Lady’s image miraculously imprinted on the fabric of the cloak. The temple was built on the hilltop in honor of Our Lady, and after the apparitions, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism from 1531 to 1538. This week, Christians across the U.S. join Mexican Americans and immigrants of all Latin origin in celebrating the Dec. 12 feast day of the Queen of all America.

Pilgrimages for Triangle Parishioners
Parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., got an early start to their commemoration of the annual Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. More than 50 adults and children, along with Ignatius Harding, OFM, parochial vicar, made a double pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, when they visited two national shrines.

At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington, the Triangle contingent attended a reenactment of the miracle of the Castilian roses and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing on the poncho of Juan Diego. They then joined hundreds of other visitors in praying a multicultural Rosary in seven different languages. After watching a spectacular performance by a religious Azteca dance group, which danced its way to the altar of the Virgin of Guadalupe clad in indigenous dress and colors, the pilgrims attended a Solemn Mass whose celebrant was Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and whose homilist was Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville.

“He used a prayer to Our Lady in his homily – that through her Son, she may help us grow in faith and learn to walk the paths of justice and peace – which served as a strong reminder that the mother of Jesus is also our mother and the mother of the Church,” said Ignatius, who spent more than 40 years as a Franciscan missionary in the South American country of Bolivia.

The pilgrimage also included a trip to the nearby Saint John Paul II National Shrine, where parishioners spent time in prayer at the Redemptor Hominis Church and Luminous Mysteries Chapel. They took an extensive pilgrimage through the most important aspects of Saint John Paul II’s life, with audio devices translating for those who spoke Spanish.

“We shared a family-style lunch while reflecting on his life and message as the Pope of justice, peace and integrity of creation,” Ignatius said.

St. Francis of Assisi Parish was also planning to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe on the Dec. 12 feast day with an evening procession and Solemn Eucharist led by guest celebrant and homilist Charles Miller, OFM, of Silver Spring, followed by a reception at the parish center.

24 Hours of Festivities at Immaculate Conception
For Immaculate Conception in Durham, N.C., the annual celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the parish’s most significant and dynamic events of the year. Parishioners pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin literally for 24 hours.

The festivities begin on the eve of the feast day, with parishioners arriving throughout the night to sing hymns and set flowers before a statue of the Virgin. The action will pick up at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 12, according to Christopher VanHaight, OFM, pastor, who says a prayer service will be followed by Mariachi bands, dancers in regalia, singing and other musical performances that will take place until 4 a.m.

“A steady stream of the faithful arriving after midnight will add to the mountain of flowers by presenting roses to the statue of Our Lady,” said Christopher, noting that after a 4 a.m. Mass, parishioners feast on a breakfast of traditional Mexican fare that includes sweet bread, tamales and hot drinks.

During the day, the student population of the parish school, Immaculata, will attend a Mass and place flowers at the statue of Our Lady. The festivities continue that evening, when a smaller statue of the Blessed Virgin is paraded through the streets of Durham before returning to the church for a Mass that culminates the 24-hour celebration.

“The closing Mass is always packed. We expect the same attendance and participation this year. We are blessed that this incredible outpouring of faith is a part of our community,” said Chris who has been stationed in Durham since 2014.

The celebration at Immaculate Conception is rooted in a tradition that began when a group of Mexican immigrants approached the first Franciscan friars assigned to the parish and asked them if they would celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since then, the Mexican-Americans, as well as other Latin populations, have sustained a thriving multicultural community filled with spirit and joy at the Durham parish.

Community and Hospitality in Raleigh
In Raleigh, the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi plans to celebrate the feast day with a special bilingual Mass at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 12. Refreshments will be served at a social following the Mass.

“Part of our parish’s mission is to be a community that is welcoming and extends its hospitality to all,” says Tricia Henry, director of strategic planning and communications. “The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe is especially appreciated by our growing Latino community as we welcome all to celebrate with us.”

Although James Sabak, OFM, associate pastor, does not speak Spanish, the Latino community is grateful for his friendship and spiritual guidance, and for walking in brotherhood with them on this heralded feast day. “He cherishes [this bond] – and, of course, he really appreciates the gracious hospitality of fresh tamales,” Henry said.

St. Camillus Parish offered a special Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Night and Day Commemorations at Silver Spring Parish
Like many parishes, St. Camillus in Silver Spring, Md., begins the feast day celebration at the crack of dawn, with parishioners flocking to church at 5 a.m. for traditional Marion hymns to Our Lady of Guadalupe, prayer and a Mariachi band. After praying the Rosary in multiple languages, coffee and pastries will be served in the Francis Room.

The celebration will pick up again in the evening, according to Christopher Posch, OFM, pastor, who has held several positions serving the Latin community for more than two decades, among them director of the office of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware, and chair of the Province’s Hispanic Ministry committee.

Chris said the evening celebration honoring the Blessed Virgin will begin at 5 p.m. with a procession through North West Park apartments, followed by a 7:30 p.m. Mass featuring traditional indigenous dancing and a dramatic performance of the encounter between Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.

“All are welcome to what promises to be a meaningful and joyful celebration,” Chris said.

Spectacle and Solemnity at Butler Parish
With a large percentage of parishioners with origins from several Latin-language nations – Mexico among them – it is not surprising that St. Anthony of Padua in Butler, N.J., was preparing to celebrate the feast day with a combination of spectacle and solemnity.

“This feast day is significant in our community because the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a meaningful part of the identity of Mexican Americans and immigrants,” said Annette Miller, the parish’s director of faith formation.

“People from Mexico and Latin America have a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, praying to her for comfort and love. They ask, and she provides,” said Miller, adding, “Our parishioners believe in a single truth – that our Mother Mary is always with us to spread her love and help everyone reach her son.”

A parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua in Butler, N.J., holds an iconic image of Our Lady.

The celebration begins on the Dec. 12 feast day before sunrise, as parishioners will kick off an hour-long procession at 4:00 a.m. through the streets of Butler with a statue of Our Lady adorned in roses. They will return to the church, greeted by traditional Mariachi music, followed by a 6:00 a.m. Mass and fellowship breakfast.

“The thing that stands out every year about this annual commemoration of Our Lady’s feast day is the sense of community and inclusivity,” Miller said. “The fact that so many people from different backgrounds attend the celebration is a testament to the unity that our faith provides.”

Las Mañanitas at Upper West Side Parish
At the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus on West 96th Street in New York City, the parish’s Guadalupana organization was planning a weekend commemoration, as it does each year, so that weekday work and school schedules wouldn’t prevent parishioners from participating.

The celebration starts with Las Mañanitas, a traditional song that Mexicans sing as an early morning greeting to the Blessed Virgin. For the past several weeks, a group of parish musicians – including guitar, horn and accordion players – has been practicing 12 songs of praise as a beautiful tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

At 8:00 a.m., runners from across the New York City metropolitan area will kick off the Antorcha – a ceremony that involves carrying a lighted torch from Union Square to the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, symbolizing Christ as the light of the world.

“Just as the Blessed Virgin is the Christ-bearer, we, too, are privileged to carry this torch – the light of all the world. It is a great honor to be such faithful disciples,” said John Heffernan, OFM. “The runners will enter the church bearing the light of Christ.”

The Eucharistic Liturgy for the Solemnity will include music by a Mariachi band and an offertory procession of children representing the Virgin Mary, an angel and Juan Diego. Refreshments will be served after the Mass.

“Celebrating Guadalupe and the other solemnities of the Blessed Mother are times of great devotion and joy for our parishioners who share Latino culture and heritage,” said John, who lived in Peru for two years. “These feast days are traditional and fundamental parts of the liturgical year, and they are essential to the understanding of and participation in the mystery of the incarnation.”

John said that he and all parishioners at the Upper West Side parish find great joy in the feast day, coming together in a powerful way in celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “We grow closer to Christ through this and other celebrations, which are the epitome of being Catholic,” he said.

Performances in Buffalo
When parishioners of Ss. Columba-Brigid Church in Buffalo, N.Y., process through the streets of the community with a relic of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor, says it will be the first time in recent memory that the parish will be celebrating the feast day. He credits Alba Luz Mejia, a postulant with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, for her outreach to the Spanish-speaking community and, as a result, organizing the festivities – which will also include a Mass on Dec. 12 and three performances of “The Trial of Juan Diego,” an original play written by a Buffalo immigration attorney, in which several parishioners will participate.

“Our parish has a rich Puerto Rican heritage, but also includes people from Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Since Our Lady is patroness of the Americas, her feast is significant for a parish such as ours,” Jud said.

The relic that will be used in the procession is connected to the original tilma (cloak) of St. Juan Diego, which is imprinted with the sacred image of the Blessed Virgin and venerated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in northern Mexico City. Representatives of the organization, Mission for the Love of God Worldwide – which arranged for the relic to be sent to Ss. Columba-Brigid Parish – are also attending the festivities.

The performances of “The Trial of Juan Diego” at the Western New York parish and at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Lackawanna, just south of Buffalo, will be staged readings, said Jud, rather than full productions.

“For many of the dozen or so performers, it will be their first time in a dramatic production – or their first time in a long time. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our parishioners to celebrate the feast day in this special way,” he added, noting that the storyline involves a student who is suspended from her middle school for wearing a shirt with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While Jud was looking forward to the feast day celebration in Buffalo, he reminisced about one of his favorite aspects of past commemorations when he was stationed at St. Anthony of Padua in Camden, N.J. “I will miss Las Mañanitas (the early morning song to Our Lady) that would start at 4:30 a.m.,” he said.

— Stephen Mangione is a longtime writer and public relations executive based in Westchester County, N.Y.  Research provided by Jocelyn Thomas. 

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