Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Photo Gallery

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Roses and rosary beads, prayers and piñatas, Mariachi bands and images of Mary all played a part in the archdiocesan-wide celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe Saturday, Dec. 12.

Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated Mass in Spanish at 7 p.m. at a packed Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. (Read his homily in Spanish on page 20).

It was a beautiful sight to behold, as the faithful flocked to the Cathedral bearing roses, which they later placed before two large-scale images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, both of which were framed in hundreds of roses.

After the two-hour Mass, the faithful remained to participate in the mañanitas, a serenade and reenactments of the apparition that honor Our Lady of Guadalupe with the traditional birthday song and hymns performed by various choirs, a children’s pastorelas group and the Flores mariachi band, a local music group made up of six brothers who are natives of Mexico.

As a sign of their devotion, many of the faithful of St. Thomas Aquinas and Annunciation B.V.M. parishes in South Philadelphia walked a two-mile pilgrimage to the Cathedral. Along the way, they were encouraged by many English-speaking people who came out of their homes to show their support.

None of the Mass-goers appeared to be complaining about the cold weather as they processed into the Cathedral in droves. Parents strolled with carriages that contained precious cargo: bundled-up babies who didn’t seem to mind being out beyond their bedtime. Children, teenagers and young adults flanked the elderly.

Among the pilgrims was Antonio Tepayotl Rojano, 40, a native of Puebla, Mexico, who attends Mass at both St. Thomas Aquinas and Annunciation B.V.M.

To Tepayotl Rojano, who helped coordinate the celebration at the Cathedral, having the feast day Mass there was the realization of a longtime dream.

In addition to the hundreds of roses, the pilgrims from St. Thomas Aquinas and Annunciation B.V.M. brought 700 handmade rosaries which they distributed to the congregants. A “happy” problem was that because the number of people at the Mass was so vast, they ran out of rosaries.

Manuel Solares, 18, who also attends Mass at Annunciation B.V.M., went to the Cathedral Mass by himself after he finished his shift at his center city job. “Everybody is here for the same reason,” he said. “My mom and dad taught me to pray and to say thanks to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Whatever we tell her, she helps us. Everybody respects her.”

José Ramírez, 26, who also attends St. Thomas Aquinas and Annunciation B.V.M., was among those who helped frame hundreds of flowers around the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “The first thing I did today in the morning when I woke up was the mañanitas,” he said.

“It was a beautiful Mass,” said 11-year-old Alejandra Hernández who sang, danced and recited a poem in honor of Mary in the Cathedral after the Mass.

Many young boys – including a 2-month-old named Santiago – donned St. Juan Diego costumes complete with hand-painted moustaches and sideburns.

Msgr. Hugh J. Shields, the archdiocesan vicar for Hispanic Catholics, was certain the hundreds of pictures snapped by the faithful would make their way back to family homes in Mexico and other locales “to remind them that they are in union with them as they gather around the altar here” in the Cathedral Basilica.

“This encourages us and reminds us of how vibrant a community we are working with and how much a part of the Church they are – our people not just from Mexico but many other Latin American countries who are so filled with faith and want to share it,” Msgr. Shields said.

“They are just so desirous of being united with the Church at large, and certainly through the Cardinal with our Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” he added.

For those who may feel left out because of lack of legal documents, “their faith is a tremendous doorway for them to feel affirmed and very much included in the prayer of the Church in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” added the vicar.

Msgr. Shields’ message to those entrusted to his care as vicar: “Don’t worry about your documents – worry about your faith.”

Msgr. Shields celebrated several Masses on and surrounding the feast day, including a midnight Mass at St. Isidore Church in Quakertown, Bucks County, on Dec. 12, the 5 p.m. Mass Dec. 12 at Our Lady of Ransom Church in Northeast Philadelphia, then, two hours later, as a concelebrant at the Cardinal’s Mass at the Cathedral and as the celebrant at the 3 p.m. Mass Sunday, Dec. 13, at St. Aloysius Church in Pottstown, Montgomery County.

Among other celebrations around the Archdiocese: a 5:15 a.m. procession preceding the 5:30 a.m. Mass at St. Alice Church in Upper Darby, Delaware County, followed by refreshments and a social in the parish hall. Also at St. Alice’s: a reenactment of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego prior to the 7 p.m. Mass; a dinner and social followed in the parish hall.

After the 5 p.m. bilingual Mass, eighth-graders from Our Lady of Ransom Parish also performed a reenactment of the story of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, then recited the Hail Mary in Spanish.

The congregation, which included those who attend the parish’s ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, were invited to pass by the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after the Mass and prayerfully ask the Blessed Mother, “What does your Son want from me?”

The Flores family mariachi band provided accompaniment throughout the liturgy. A fiesta, which included music, ethnic foods and piñatas, followed in the parish hall.

At St. Patrick Church in Norristown, Montgomery County, mañanitas were celebrated from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. Dec. 12. At 6 p.m., a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was processed from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Norristown to St. Patrick Church, where Mass was celebrated at 7 p.m. and a fiesta followed in the parish hall from 8:30 p.m. to midnight.

At Our Lady of Fatima Church in Bensalem, Bucks County, mañanitas were celebrated from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Dec. 12. At 10 a.m., a one-mile procession, which included a mariachi band, began at Knights and Byberry Roads, to the church, after which Mass was celebrated. A fiesta, which included various vendors, a DJ and mariachi band followed on the parish grounds until 4 p.m.

In many homes across the Archdiocese, novenas were celebrated for nine nights before the feast day.

“For our Mexican brothers and sisters, there is no greater and more persistent symbol of devotion than the devotion that they have for La Virgen de Guadalupe,” said Anna C. Vega, director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics.

“To them, she is the symbol of Mexican and Mexican American identity. In her, the people experience acceptance, dignity, love and protection.

“The Mexicans lovingly call her La Morenita, the ‘Brown Virgin,’ because she appeared to Juan Diego bearing the likeness of a mestizo maiden.”

For more information on outreach to Hispanic Catholics, contact the archdiocesan Office for Hispanic Catholics at 215-667-2820, visit the web site www.hispaniccatholics.phl.org or e-mail the director, Anna C. Vega, at avega@adphila.org.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or cchicoin@adphila.org.