Let not your heart be disturbed… Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.” (Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, 1531)
In Avondale, Pennsylvania we were looking forward very eagerly to the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe because we have much to be grateful for this year. For the first time, our mostly Mexican congregation was able to celebrate this feast day in the new Church of St. Rocco, recently inaugurated last summer.
What was most apparent throughout all the various festivities was the very great enthusiasm of so many parishioners. The celebration was truly a community affair with a committee dedicated the organization of the different activities and the full participation of many parochial groups, including the choir, lectors, altar servers, and dance groups. Whatever people had to offer, it was given with great generosity.
Activities in honor of Our Lady started on December 7th, five days before the actual feast day. Each day leading up to her feast, an image of Our Lady was carried in procession from the center of town to the Church of St. Rocco as the congregation prayed the Rosary. In spite of the cold, rainy weather, many dedicated people came to accompany the Virgin of Guadalupe on her pilgrimage to the church.
A celebration of the Holy Mass following the daily procession. At the end of the Mass, a dance group from the parish named “Los Chinelos” performed a traditional dance from the town of Pachuquilla, Mexico. The dance always began with a greeting to the Virgin and then a moment of prayer. The dancers then walked backwards out of the main church, continually facing the Virgin Mary, in order to perform their dance in the atrium of the Church. The dance and the traditional costumes of Pachuquilla were very beautiful.
The Love of a People for their Mother
On December 11th, the eve of the feast, we had the normal procession and then Mass after which we prayed first vespers. After vespers, there was a very moving time of prayer to Our Lady. People started to demonstrate the love they have for their mother, bringing her roses and candles, and kneeling to pray at her feet. The parishioners had even constructed a replica of the Hill of Tepeyac to recall the place of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s apparitions.
At eleven that night, Las Mañanitas began. Mañanitas refers to the Mexican tradition of honoring Our Lady by singing typical Mariachi Mañanitas (“early morning”) songs for her. Sometimes the singing is done all night long on the eve of the feast. Instead of singing all night, we welcomed the feast of Our Lady with the Holy Mass at midnight.
It was a great surprise for us sisters when we went to the Church for the Mañanitas to see that it was almost completely full. This was the first time we had ever seen so many people at the Church. More than 1,000 people were present.
December 12th: Bring Our Lady to the Hardworking and the Humble!
On the Feast Day of Guadalupe, our first Mass was at 6:00 in the morning. Despite the late night and the early Mass, a large number of people still attended. Following the Mass, we continued singing Mañanitas, but we took the choir on the road and went to sing at the mushroom factories where many of our parishioners work. (The mushroom factories are farms located underground. Because they do not depend on natural sunlight, they can function around the clock and production is almost constant.)
Many of the workers had assembled little shrines and altars in the factories in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When we came to sing everyone would stop their work for a few minutes and join in with us, praising their “Beloved Mother” and “Virgen Chula” as she is called so affectionately in the songs.
Our choir was made up of volunteers from the parish. Regardless of their exhaustion from all the activities, their joy and good spirit never waned. For many it was the first time participating in the Mañanitas.
Through the whole day, four more Masses were celebrated: at noon, at four, at six in the evening, and at ten at night. The church was always full of people, especially for the last two Masses. No one wanted to miss this feast of their special Patroness. Following all four Masses there was always some dance group or band performing in honor of Our Lady.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is also the patroness of our community of sisters here in Avondale. For several days leading up to the feast we each prepared short presentations about the history of the apparitions at Guadalupe . Despite all the work involved in preparing the church for the feast, we still celebrated Our Lady as a Religious Family along with the sister from the Aspirancy and the sisters serving our mission in Philadelphia.
We wish to give thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe for the great and many benefits we have received in our community and in our mission, especially for the inauguration of the new Church of St. Rocco.
¡VIVA CRISTO REY Y LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE!
In Christ and the Most Holy Virgin Maria,
Sisters from the Community Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.