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Hundreds honor Virgin of Guadalupe at the Sacred Heart Chapel for the annual Novena celebrations

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent

LORAIN:  While hundreds of thousands of devout Catholics in México and other Latin-American  countries honored the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec.12, 2009 – the date commemorating her apparition 478 years ago– hundreds of people gathered to honor her at the Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain.

Members of the clergy perform the Eucharist ceremony during the Saturday's Mass, Dec. 12, 2009 at the Sacred Heart Chapel for the novena in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

During the last four years, the number of people attending the chapel on that date has increased.

Nearly eight hundred people attended the bilingual Masses (English and Spanish) at the Sacred Heart Chapel during nine days – known as the “novena,” from Dec. 3 to Dec.12, 2009, to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe.

They recited the rosary, followed by Mass where they asked the Virgin for blessings and they presented her with gifts. Near midnight, Dec. 11, they sang to her “Las Mañanitas” with a Mariachi  band called “Joya de México.” 

Many Catholics observe every Dec. 12, believing it was a miraculous day full of great revelation. They believe that in the year 1531, the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, appeared to the peasant, Juan Diego on the Tepeyac hill, outside México City, México.

She asked Juan Diego to tell the Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga to have a temple constructed for her there. But the bishop asked him for proof of the apparition. Following the Virgin’s instructions, the peasant carried roses to the local bishop in his cloak, or tilma, where the image of the Virgin Mary appeared and convinced the bishop of the apparition’s validity. Meanwhile, Juan Diego’s dying uncle was miraculously healed.

Today, millions migrate, some by foot, to that temple in México, called la Basílica de Guadalupe, where Juan Diego’s tilma is kept, still holding the imprint of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Mexicans living within the United States, away from their families, said, to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe on the day of her apparition is another way to reconnect with their culture, their people and their beloved country of origin. The nine-day festivities are a tradition that has become a great part of the Mexican identity.

Blanca Herrera went to the Masses in Lorain and helped to serve the Mexican food.

“First of all, I am 100 percent Mexican. Since I was a little girl, this was always a tradition; now honoring her brings me great pride,” Herrera said.
She continued “Since migrating here, singing to the Virgin is like having a piece of your heart return to [México]. It’s very emotional. This is very important for Mexicans,” she said.

Alma de Mexico dance group pose just before performing at the Sacred Heart Chapel, Sat. Dec.12 for the Novena in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
From left: Kayla Villa, Falicia Cruz, Vanessa Villa, Jackie Velasquez-Prosak, and in front a boy joins them dressed in the Mexican "Charro."

She also added that she wants to continue to pass on her Mexican culture to her four boys, of 8, 6, 4, and 2 years old, even though they live far away from their country.

“Especially (because) we are in a country where we are immigrants, this is very – it's even more important to teach the children to have respect for the Virgin,” she said.

During the Masses, the attendees sang to the Virgin along with the Mariachi “Joya de México” several songs including “Buenos Días Paloma Blanca,” and “La Guadalupana,” among others, and the audience would cheer “¡Que Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Que Viva!

Each day during the “novena” a different ethnicity or society of the chapel was represented and an individual or family chosen from that group would take the symbolic gifts of wine and bread to the Virgin for the Eucharist. The most popular days were the last two, Friday, Dec. 11 and Sat. Dec. 12.

The Saturday Mass began with “Los Matachines” group, from the St. Paul Church of Norwalk, Ohio, who performed several indigenous dances of México to the rhythms of the drums. Following them into the chapel were several representatives of the different societies of the church.

At the conclusion of the Masses, attendees received Mexican food of: pozole verde o rojo (a soup), carnitas (meat), arroz (rice), fideo (spaghetti), nachos con queso, tamales, empanadas de calabaza (pumpkin baked goods), agua de piña (pineapple juice), agua de horchata (cinnamon rice milk), ponche de frutas (fruit punch), and arroz con leche (rice with milk).

While they ate, the Mariachi “Joya de México” performed more traditional Mexican songs. The group “Los Matachines” danced to the drums, and the “Alma de México” group consisting of four women twirled their traditional Mexican dresses as they performed three ethnic dances.

Felix Soto, 73, of Mexican origin, is a member of a St. John’s Church in Lorain but he attends the Masses for the “novena” celebrations at the Sacred Heart Chapel.

He went with his wife, Carmen Soto, 71.

“I owe so much to the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Felix Soto said “God is first, then comes the Virgin of Guadalupe and then comes my wife. I love the Mass here because it is in Spanish. It reaches my heart better,” he said.

Father Christopher Gibson, from the Passionist Congregation in Chicago, Illinois celebrated the Masses with Rev. A. James Quinn, Father William A. Thaden of Sacred Heart Chapel, Rev. Juan Ortiz, and Deacon Tony DeGracía.

Father Gibson explained that the apparition of the Virgin “is a beautiful synthesis of the gospel,” that calls for tolerance of different people. He spoke about the importance of humility and tolerance for different cultures in order to achieve peace.

Some celebrated the novena festivities dressed in traditional Mexican clothing.From left here are Maria de los Angeles, Noema Torres, 4, and Maria Guadalupe.

He explained that before the apparition of the Virgin, great tension existed between the Mexicans and the Spaniards. The apparition was an invitation for the union of those two groups. In fact, that is precisely what happened. The two groups united and converted the people of México into one called mestizo, which means a hybrid or union between two races, Gibson explained.

The image “appears before the people of México became a mestizo people,” Gibson said. “It costs us humans to integrate ourselves but this is an invitation to integration,” he concluded.


The face and eyes of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe

Gibson explained that digital photography has allowed experts to discover other images within the eyes of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Images of an Indian, a bishop, an African woman slave, and a family of one man, one woman, and three children were discovered within her eyes.

Gibson said the image calls for unity and tolerance for differences. Her face is mestizo but she has bluish-green eyes, and within the eyes are images of people of both sexes, of all ages and of different cultures, he said.

Father William Thaden, of the Sacred Heart Chapel, said even though the “novena” mostly attracts Mexicans, people of various cultures also attend.

“There’s such a variety of people that come, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos, people who aren’t Latino, people that it’s perhaps not their tradition but it means something to them,” Thaden said “They come because something is touching them,” he said.

He added “We’re using this event to unify all people, as a way to connect people who aren’t here all the time, trying to bring them back,” he said.

After Saturday’s Mass, Alejandra Pacheco, 21, of Mexican origin, walked up to the altar of the Virgin of Guadalupe, that was surrounded by flowers, within the Sacred Heart Chapel. She lowered her head in reverence while silently praying for a few minutes. It was her first time visiting this chapel for the “novena” festivities.

“My sister invited me, and I have come to see her because she is our dear Virgin of México,” Pacheco said “She is my second, well my first mother. She is close to God and takes care of us from up there,” she said.


Editor’s Note: See La Prensa’s Ingrid Rivera’s video coverage of this tremendous event at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF_dmQ0Lf1o
See more of La Prensa’s video coverage of the Novena celebrations at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyWg4-aXwJ4


Los Matachines of the St. Paul Church in Norwalk,Ohio danced indigenous Mexican dances to the rhythm of the drums for the novena in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe at Sacred Heart Chapel, Dec. 12.

The Mariachi Joya de Mexico performed during the Mass, near midnight, Friday, Dec.11, 2009 at the Sacred Heart Chapel for the novena in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.





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