AVONDALE, PENNSYLVANIA – At St. Rocco’s Catholic Church we began our spiritual preparation for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 1st with a twelve-day novena, Docenario, as traditionally prayed to Our Lady in Mexico. Each day different groups of the parish (the Young Adults, the Married couples, the lectors, the children, etc.) took turns to lead the rosary and procession on that particular day.
This year we were so glad to be joined by one of the IVE transitional deacons and two IVE seminarians from Our Religious Family who drove up on Wednesday evening from their seminary, the Fulton Sheen House of Formation in Chillum, MD, to serve in the celebrations.
On December 11th we began with our decorative preparations – the decorations of the church, the flower arrangements, and especially making the “Cerrito” (Hill) of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We finished just in time for the Vigil Mass to begin. As soon as Mass was over people began to stay in the church to secure the best spots they could for the official beginning of all the celebrations – the Mañanitas.
Finally at 11pm, the church lights dimmed down and a single spotlight shone on La Virgen de Guadalupe as the first of several “bandas” (Mexican style bands) came to sing to Our Lady. This was followed by a Solemn Midnight Mass to Our Lady.
By this point the church was packed with people who had come to greet La Virgen, and this continued all through the night. Everything for the liturgy was prepared with extra special attention just for Our Lady, from the type of incense used to the extra practices put in by the choir just for the Masses of this day. Various folklore groups also honored Our Lady with costumes and traditional dances.
Msgr. Frank Depman, the pastor, celebrated the Misa de la Aurora (Mass of the Dawn) at 6:00am. Many workers and even many children came to greet La Virgencita before they went to work and school.
Before the Noon Mass we were invited to go to an honguera (one of the subterranean mushroom farms) where many Mexicans work. There together with Msgr. Frank and the seminarians we were able to have a prayer service to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to sing the Mañanitas to her in a little chapel they have on the premises of the “farm”. Afterwards the owner invited us and all of the workers to a Mexican lunch where we were able to talk to some of them and invite them to the Masses that would be held the rest of the day. In many cases it was also inviting them to come back to Church.
Further Masses were celebrated at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. After many of the Masses people would offer to sing a song or two as a gift to Our Lady. By the 6pm Mass, when most of the people were finally done with work, the church was so packed there were even people standing in the narthex of the church. When the collection was being taken up all you could see in the back were the collection baskets floating over people’s heads as they were putting their offering in as a sign of thanksgiving to Our Lord and Our Lady.
All those who came to the Masses heard in the homily the message about what Our Lady wished for her children: to come to her and to be filled with her fruit (cf. Sirach 24:18), the fruit of Her womb, Her Son; and to receive all that He has to offer in His Merciful Love and in the Sacraments.
We pray through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the continued fruits of all the activities dedicated to her. We ask especially that her lost Mexican children may come back to their faith and that those already close to her may be strong witnesses of their faith to their neighbors.