It started with a song and ended with a song, and in between well over 1,000 people raised their voices in song, joy and gratitude while celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia Dec. 11. Though Our Lady of Guadalupe was named Empress of the Americas by Blessed Pope John Paul II, she has been Queen of Mexico for much longer, and her feast day – celebrated worldwide by Latinos and non-Latinos – carries a distinctly Mexican tenor.
In the Philadelphia Archdiocese that meant that parishioners from St. Thomas Aquinas and Annunciation BVM in South Philadelphia, dressed in traditional regional garb and with children in arms dressed as little St. Juan Diegos, carried two large platforms with rose-clad images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego through the streets of the city before reaching the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Center City.
Parishioners from Incarnation of Our Lord carried a platform with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe crowned with a arch of roses through the streets of North Philadelphia before heading to the Cathedral; and the parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle carried a very large replica of the original image on the tilma, also surrounded by roses, to the mother church of the Archdiocese.
All of the processions arrived well before the Mass began in order to be part of the tradition of Las Mañanitas, in which a mariachi leads the gathered faithful in an hour-long serenade of the Blessed Mother. Vincentian Fathers Marvin Nava and Orlando Cardona led cheers of ¡Viva! for the Blessed Mother, for the Word Incarnate and for the Catholic faith.
Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Hugh Shields, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas. During his homily, the statement that the Blessed Mother draws all under her mantle – documented and undocumented alike – drew applause and calls of ¡viva! from the standing-room only crowd. Msgr. Shields called on the Latino Catholic community to strengthen their roles as evangelizers – in word and deed. He also mentioned members of the Indonesian community who joined in the celebration, as well as the members of other ethnic communities in attendance.
Before the conclusion of the Mass Msgr. Shields blessed with holy water on the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe the faithful had brought with them to line the communion rail, and the largest of the platforms with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego were carried in indoor procession around the Cathedral Basilica as those gathered raised and waved roses.
After the Mass had concluded, Father Bruce Lewandowski, Vicar for Cultural Ministries in the Archdiocese, addressed those in the community and the priests who were part of the celebration, and led them
in another round of cheers and a joyful expression of faith. The evening ended at 11 p.m., with a final, traditional Guadalupano song, and Mexican hot chocolate and sweet bread served in the parking lot of the Cathedral.
Outside of the city, parishes with large Latino communities like St. Rocco in Avondale and Our Lady of Fatima in Bensalem celebrated with early morning Mañanitas and evening processions and Masses on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s actual feast day, Dec. 12.