Feast celebrates patroness of the Americas

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Isn’t the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe a Latino celebration just for Latinos?

“No, it isn’t,” said Father Jeff Ethen, pastor of St. Leonard of Port Mauritius Parish in Pelican Rapids and St. Elizabeth Parish in Elizabeth. “It is a gift from the Latinos, but it is for all cultures.”

At the canonization ceremony of St. Juan Diego in 2002 in Mexico, Pope John Paul II dedicated the Virgin of Guadalupe to all the Americas: North, Central and South America, Father Ethen explained.

This religious celebration honors the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, on Tepeyac Hill in Central Mexico in 1531. She is the patroness of the Americas as well as the unborn, and her feast day is Dec. 12.

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The Aguilar-Cervantes family of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish in Long Prairie prepares to carry the gifts during last year’s Mass. Photo by Dianne Towalski

Local Catholics will observe the feast with a Mass and Celebration of Solidarity at 1 p.m. Dec. 13 with Bishop Donald Kettler and Benedictine Abbot John Klassen at St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville. A reception in the Warner Palaestra will follow with a traditional meal, music and folkloric dances.

Father Ethen serves the Hispanic population in Pelican Rapids where he celebrates a Spanish Mass every Sunday, and oversees weekly adoration and faith formation classes.

He encourages all people of the diocese to celebrate this feast together because “we are a multicultural diocese and a diocese that welcomes immigrants from around the world,” he said. “Our Lady of Guadalupe came to the marginalized and promised to remain with them. We can all relate to her compassion.”

Monica Segura-Schwartz, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park, is working with a group of people from her parish who are practicing traditional Aztec dances with the hope of performing at the celebration. Segura-Schwartz grew up in Colombia and didn’t celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe until she came to the United States.

“For me, the Lady of Guadalupe has been a good opportunity to learn about other Catholic traditions that originated in Latin America,” she said. “The most beautiful thing the Lady of Guadalupe has to offer a person like me is to explain the union between the indigenous beliefs and the church.

“At the time that the Lady appeared in Mexico, the indigenous people did not believe they had anything to do with the Catholic Church and the Church did not believe they had anything to do with the indigenous people until the presence of the Lady appeared. I really believe that is the magic of it,” she said.

Segura-Schwartz learned a lot at the first Celebration of Solidarity in 2013.

“I learned that when the Lady of Guadalupe made her presence to the indigenous people, they celebrated her the way they knew how, and the way they knew how was with their dances and with their drums and that is why we celebrate that way today. Many of the dances at the Lady of Guadalupe celebrations we have now were done for Mother Earth by the indigenous people and now they are done for Our Lady.”
Father Ethen hopes that those who attend the Celebration of Solidarity will experience “unbridled joy” in celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“She appeared to San Juan Diego as an Aztec,” he said. “The joy stems from her appearance — unique from all other apparitions — as being pregnant: a sign of new life and hope. She isn’t aloof. She is a mother, approachable.”

He also feels that events like this can help foster understanding between cultures.

“Her celebrations are powerful signs of hospitality,” he said. “We celebrate our new life in baptism and our being one family.”