Our Lady of Guadalupe: Role model of evangelization
By Enedelia J. Obregón
Led by Bishop Joe Vásquez, more than 1,200 faithful from throughout the Diocese of Austin showed their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe with a procession in her honor on Dec. 6 in Round Rock.
Matachines of all ages –– dressed in indigenous costumes –– danced along the procession route as parents carried babies and pushed strollers, and people of all ages prayed the rosary as they walked. Trucks pulled trailers decorated with colorful paper flowers and carried images and statues of Mary as well as children dressed as angels, Our Lady and San Juan Diego. They sang “Las Mañanitas” and other songs of devotion. The procession ended with Mass at St. William Parish.
In his homily, Bishop Vásquez pointed to the image of Our Lady near the altar, bringing attention to the flags of different countries of the Americas.
“She is the empress of the Americas,” Bishop Vásquez said. “She belongs in a special way to the Mexican people, but St. John Paul II said in his exhortation that all the American continents are under her protection.”
The bishop said it was very appropriate that the faithful had walked –– made a pilgrimage –– despite the cold and cloudy skies because the church remains a pilgrim church, always seeking Jesus. Mary is our role model because she gave herself completely to God’s will. He also noted that San Juan Diego, canonized in 2002, represented the indigenous people whose world had been destroyed by the Spanish conquest of 1519-21.
“There was a lot of suffering then like there is today,” Bishop Vásquez said. “Today people suffer from lack of work or illness or separation among family members.”
He said we need to remember what Our Lady told Juan Diego: No se turbe de corazón. ¿No estoy aquí que soy tu madre? (Let not your heart be troubled. Am I not here, I who am your mother?)
That encounter between Our Lady and Juan Diego was the first moment of evangelization in the Americas, the bishop said.
“We should be proud to be Catholics because this simple, yet profound, moment was blessed by God,” and that encounter led to the baptism of millions of indigenous people, he said.
The Virgin Mary, who said her name was Guadalupe, first appeared to Juan Diego on Dec. 9, 1531. She had brown skin just as he did and spoke to him in his native language. She asked that a shrine be built on Tepeyac Hill, the spot where she appeared to him in what is now Mexico City.
Juan Diego told Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga of her request, but the bishop did not believe him, demanding a sign before he would approve construction of a church. She appeared to Juan Diego a total of four times, the last on Dec. 12, which is now her feast day. She ordered Juan Diego to collect the roses that suddenly grew on top of the hill. Juan Diego carried the roses, which were out of season, in his tilma, a type of cloak, and took them to the bishop. When Juan Diego opened his cloak, dozens of roses fell to the floor, revealing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The image on the tilma remains on display at the Basilica de Santa María de Guadalupe in Mexico City.
This was the second consecutive year that dozens of ministries throughout the diocese –– under the umbrella of the diocesan Hispanic Ministry Office –– joined forces to organize the event, said Edgar Ramírez, ministry director. This year the focus was broadened.
“After last year we realized a lot of people didn’t know the story,” Ramírez said. “This year we decided to have a series of events to educate and evangelize people about María de Guadalupe.”
Classes on the new evangelization, retreats, rosaries and a Marian concert were organized throughout the diocese for the participants beginning in October, ending with the procession and Mass on Dec. 6.
“We couldn’t understand the impact of her apparition until we understood what was going on before and why God needed to send her to the Americas,” Ramírez said. “Their world had completely collapsed. It now makes sense why she is the Estrella (Star) of the New Evangelization.”
The purpose of all of these activities was so that we can “learn to share her with others. She is too important to keep to ourselves,” he said.
Evangelization begins with those who are in danger of falling away from the faith or who have left. Protestant churches –– especially evangelical ones –– are making great strides in meeting the needs of the growing Hispanic population and the Catholic Church needs to do the same, Ramírez said.
Noe Nieto, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Austin and member of the diocesan committee, said one of the goals this year was to include every parish in the diocese in the event. The invitation was sent to all parishes, although it was the predominantly Hispanic-majority parishes that participated.
Nieto said everyone needs to recognize that just as Mother Mary came to the New World as Our Lady of Guadalupe to restore the world and show the indigenous people the way to Jesus Christ, she continues to do the same today.
“Wherever you find Mary, you find Jesus,” he said. “When we listen to her, we follow in the right path.”
María Rosario Flores, who also served on the diocesan committee, said she learned a lot about Mary and Marian theology in the weeks leading up to the procession.
“It makes us proud to bring this culture to the United States and continue with our traditional heritage,” she said. “We don’t want to lose that tradition.”
To honor the Virgin Mary is a great honor, she said, adding that it made her proud that Bishop Vásquez participated. She hopes that next year priests in non-Hispanic parishes will participate in the procession and encourage their parishioners to do the same.
“She’s the same wherever she appears,” Flores said. “She may speak different languages and make appearances in different places. But she’s still Mary.”