By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe unites faith and Hispanic heritage.
For Hispanic members of St. Joseph the Provider Church of Christ, The Good Shepherd Parish, the celebration has a history going back some 20 years. Hispanic Catholics of the former Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Coitsville had a festive celebration that came with them when that church joined with St. Lucy Church in Campbell. When the Catholic churches in Campbell merged into Christ, The Good Shepherd Parish, the celebration continued as a treasured tradition.
Recently, the Rev. Shawn Conoboy, pastor of Christ, The Good Shepherd Parish; Phil Gonzalez, Spanish choir director; his wife, Mary Gonzalez, pastoral minister; and Jose Luis Contreras, church member, talked about the celebration mariachi-style Mass planned at 6:30 p.m. Monday at St. Joseph the Provider, 633 Porter Ave.
Phil Gonzalez said the Hispanic culture’s devotion to the Blessed Mother began when word of her appearance to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill in Guadalupe, Mexico. She appeared as Aztec princess, Tecuatlaxope, on Dec. 9, 1531, as Diego was on his way to Mass. Diego went to the archbishop, who said he would not believe his story without a sign.
Diego returned Dec. 12 to the hill, where he found roses blooming that Our Lady instructed him to pick. Since it was winter, flowers would not be in bloom, so this was a miracle itself. Diego returned to the archbishop with roses in his tilma, a peasant’s cloak, and when he opened his cloak, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted on it. A chapel was built at Tepeyac, and Diego tended it.
As news of the miracle spread throughout Mexico, millions converted to Christianity, he said.
“The original tilma still exits,” Phil Gonzalez said. It is on display in Mexico City and shows no sign of deterioration.
“A custom of the culture was to wear a black sash when pregnant,” Mary Gonzalez said. The Our Lady image is portrayed this way, indicating she is expecting Baby Jesus. The sash is called an encita, she said.
Father Conoboy said the “imagery is specific to that time.” He continued that “the sense of symbolism is not as obvious to us now as it would have been then.”
Our Lady wears a red dress with the sash and cloak of greenish-blue embellished with stars. The stars, according to “Bilingual Ritual of Hispanic Popular Culture” by Monsignor Patrick Brankin, are those that would have been apparent Dec. 12, 1531. When this configuration is placed on the Our Lady of Guadalupe image, they align.
Father Conoboy said the parish will have bilingual Mass in English and Spanish. Contreras will portray Juan Diego and wear a reproduction tilma with Our Lady’s image on it. Since roses are part of the miracle, the faithful are invited to bring roses to surround the Our Lady statue.
Phil Gonzalez said the mariachi music will be presented by the Son de Dios music ministry; instruments featured will be bongos, congas, guitar and trumpets. “Mananitas” will be featured. He explained it is a song to “greet the Blessed Virgin.” It is traditional song in Mexico, comparable to “Happy Birthday.”
Father Conoboy said the Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day celebration is especially important to those of Mexican descent and Latin America peoples because the story resonates with them, and Anglos because Our Lady is the patroness of the Americas and the Knights of Columbus, who have a devotion to her. Father Conoboy noted that the Spanish conquistadors, who conquered the Aztec empire, failed in their conversion attempt.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe accomplished what the conquistadors couldn’t,” he said, and that was the conversion to Christianity of millions of Hispanics.
Phil Gonzalez added, “Our Lady is the great evangelizer.”
He continued that he appreciates the Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day as “the grandest of celebrations because it venerates the mother of the church and the mother of God, who is our mother. It also brings us closer to Christ.”
He also noted that Our Lady of Guadalape, as patroness of the Americas, is the mother of all in “a borderless land.”
Mary Gonazales added, “This celebration allows us to share the Hispanic culture with others. It shows we share Our Lady as our mother.”
“The celebration is one that helps develop an appreciation of another culture,” Father Conoboy said.
Contreras is from Cuernavaca, Mexico. Through Mary Gonzalez, who translated, he said the Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day continues as an important and revered celebration.
Events usually include a dance in honor of Our Lady.
At Joseph the Provider, Sunday Masses are at 9 a.m. in English and in Spanish at noon.