Patroness of the Americas inspires joyful worship

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Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

feastofourladyofguadalupe-webThe celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Divine Mercy Parish in Vineland included a procession with a statue of the virgin.

Parishes in the Diocese of Camden celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe last weekend, remembering an icon of the Virgin Mary cherished by Mexican Catholics.

Tradition holds that on Dec.9, 1531, Juan Diego, a peasant, saw a vision of a young woman on the Hill of Tepeyac in his home of Mexico City, Mexico. The woman, who he recognized as the Virgin Mary, asked that a church be built in her honor on the spot from which she spoke.

Diego passed on Mary’s message to the bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, who told the peasant to ask Mary for a sign to prove her claim. Mary instructed Diego to gather flowers in his cloak and present them to the bishop. Upon doing so, on Dec. 12 in front of the bishop, the flowers fell out, and left on the cloak was an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is also known as “Queen of Mexico,” “Empress of the Americas,” and “Patroness of the Americas.” Juan Diego’s cloak, with the image of the Virgin Mary, is on display at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico.

The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the world.

In 2002, Juan Diego was canonized, and made a saint.

One of the largest celebrations of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the diocese took place at Divine Mercy Parish in Vineland, where some 1,000 Mexican Catholics from the surrounding community came together.

Opening its doors at 4 a.m. on Dec. 12, worshippers prayed the rosary and, at 5 a.m., began the Las Mananitas (“early morning”), serenading Our Lady of Guadalupe with traditional songs, and carrying bouquets of roses and poinsettias to honor her. Leading the hymns were musicians Julian Martinez; the Mexican brass brand, Estrellas del Sureste (“Stars of the Southeast”); and Banda Pura Sangre Musical (“Pure Blood Music Band”).

At 10:30 a.m., a procession to Divine Mercy began at the intersection of Landis Avenue and the Boulevard, with Mexican community members dressed in traditional Mexican attire, and a group of men, called “Charros con sus caballos” (“horsemen with their horses”) wearing cowboy hats and sombreros, on horseback. With a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in tow, the procession traveled down to the Boulevard to Chestnut Avenue, and then down to the church, singing and praying before entering the church for 12:30 Mass, celebrated by Msgr. Victor Muro, pastor, and Father Dominic Bottino, parochial vicar.

Afterward, there was a festive dinner, with traditional Mexican dishes, in the school hall.

The all-day event was the Mexican-Catholic community’s “expression of love, faith, and trust in Mary,” said Msgr. Muro.

At Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Atlantic City, an even larger number — 1,200 — honored Mary with a procession into the church and school gymnasium for two simultaneous Masses on Dec. 12. Father Jaime Hostios, parochial vicar celebrated Mass in the gym, while Father Laureano Baron, a friend of Father Hostios’ from the Archdiocese of Bogota, Colombia, celebrated Mass in the church.

The Mass capped a three-day celebration for the church. On Friday, there was an evening procession honoring Juan Diego, and on Saturday, Dec. 11, there was a dinner and reception for Our Lady of Guadalupe in the gym, and Mass for immigrants, followed by Las Mananitas in the church.

St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Carneys Point, as well, had a festival for the Virgin of Guadalupe, with 600-700 Mexican Catholics participating in the procession to the church. Concelebrating Mass were Father Rene Canales, parochial vicar to the Hispanics; Father Paul Harte, pastor; Father Robert Ngageno, parochial vicar; and Father Grace Manano, parochial vicar, St. Clare of Assisi, Gibbstown. Deacon Kevin Laughlin and Deacon Pablo Berrios assisted. St. Gabriel youth performed a dance for Our Lady of Guadalupe, and fellowship took place afterward.