Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hundreds honor Virgin of Guadalupe

By Andy Gross
Jika Gonzalez/The Riverdale Press
A young Aztec gets ready to perform.

Children carried red roses to bestow at the shrine of the Virgin of Guadeloupe Sunday in a joyous mass held at Our Lady of Angels Church in Kingsbridge Heights.

More than 500 people, some of them wearing the red, white and green colors of their native Mexico, crowded into the 89-year-old building to honor the Virgin of Guadeloupe with music, devotionals and processions. The celebration featured barefoot women and children dressed in Aztec costumes to represent the village in Mexico where Catholic doctrine holds she appeared as a manifestation of the Virgin Mary.

Father Thomas Lynch, who conducted the mass entirely in Spanish, said the celebration denoted the Virgin of Guadeloupe as the patroness of not only Mexico, but of all the Americas.

“The actual feast of the Virgin of Guadeloupe always occurs on Dec. 12 and is celebrated with 6 a.m. morning prayers,” Father Lynch said. “Because it fell on a day when people worked and had school, we decided to celebrate mass today, honoring her so more could join in.”

Los Voces Americanos enlivened the mass. The mariachi band played hymnals and folk music as Father Lynch presided.

In his more than six years as parish priest, Father Lynch observed his congregation was becoming increasingly Latino.

“I’d say about 70 per cent are from the Dominican Republic and about 15 per cent are Mexican and other nationalities,” said Father Lynch, who honed his Spanish while in Bolivia.

Parish office manager Ingrid DaCosta said 1,024 families currently belong to the church.

Father Lynch, who also conducts masses in English, said regardless of origin, congregants usually present similar issues. “Education, family jobs and all the human elements involved surrounding them,” he said.

According to Catholic doctrine, a man named Juan Diego saw the apparition of a young girl at the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City on Dec. 9, 1531. The girl asked that a church be built in her honor. Juan Diego recognized the girl as the Virgin Mary.

After hearing his story, church officials instructed Juan Diego to return atop the hill and ask the girl for a miraculous sign to confirm her identity. He returned with flowers in his cloak arranged by the girl. When they fell to the floor, an image of the Virgin of Guadeloupe appeared.

Eddie Roache, who has been active in the parish for 12 years and does not speak Spanish, said, “We try to melt the culture and help immigrants feel at home and a part of things.”

Camille Diaz, 10, one of many who gathered in the rectory gymnasium for a traditional Mexican lunch after the mass, posed for a picture in front of the shrine of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, saying, “I like this because children get to do more.”

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