The streets of Phoenix were alive with dance and drums, brightly feathered masks and costumes and loud shouts of “¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!”
The Dec. 7 Honor Your Mother event celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe drew participants from different cultures and faith traditions together to honor the patroness of the Diocese of Phoenix, and also to honor her as the Mother of All the Americas.
Matachines, traditional Mexican dancers, from throughout the Diocese of Phoenix, processed through the city streets from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish to St. Mary’s Basilica in front of exuberant and curious spectators.
But the matachines did not dance for the crowd of onlookers.
“These are traditional dances that give her honor, and it’s really a way for both the indigenous and non-indigenous to be united under the mantle of Mary,” said Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries.
Group after group carried banners emblazoned with her image. The elaborate traditional costumes featured her image in sequins and embroidered designs. Some carried statues of her.
Carmen Julia Jaramillo, a teen-aged matachin from St. Mark Parish in Phoenix, was excited to participate in this year’s event.
“I always wanted to be in it, but I never had time,” she said. “This year I decided to dance for the Blessed Virgin Mary because I made a promise to her.”
Blessed Pope John Paul II described Our Lady of Guadalupe as the ultimate messenger of unity, the spiritual mother we all share.
“The appearance of Mary to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading throughout the continent,” he said in Ecclesia in America.
The mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe converted more than 8 million native people in just a few years, and she continues to touch hearts today. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares concelebrated an outdoor Mass with several priests in front of St. Mary’s Basilica, where the procession concluded. St. James Parish in Glendale and St. Vincent de Paul Parish sponsored the event.
“All of us in America can claim Our Lady of Guadalupe as our mother,” said Fr. Jose Jesus Lopez Arias, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul during his bilingual homily. “She invites us to unite in peace based on the reality of the sacramental life of the Church that transcends every border.”
Unity was at the heart of the celebration — bringing together cultures, races and traditions.
Seria Vaie’e Tuiteleleapaga, dressed in full Samoan cultural attire, performed the traditional Taupau dance. Choir singers from Burundi sang in Kiswahili. Native American, Central American and North American cultures were represented, along with a group from Eritrea.
“It’s a new idea for a lot of people,” said Yazmin Sanchez, a young member of a matachines group from Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. “It’s cool because it brings a lot of people together, and different people can come to see what we bring from Mexico and other countries.”
Fr. Lopez described Our Lady of Guadalupe as the icon of the protection of the unborn and the bridge of cultures in families, adding that her message is as timely today as it was in 1531.
Several years ago Bishop Olmsted set up a task force on immigration. Their findings convinced them that the most important thing is prayer, along with a spiritual perspective on the dignity of every human person.
“That way,” the bishop said, “we would understand why we get engaged in issues that have a political dimension, and a very serious social dimension. This celebration is a wonderful thing, but it came out of that very practical concern about immigrants.”
The bishop offered hope in prayer: “May we rejoice in Our Lady of Guadalupe, live united and at peace in this world until the day the Lord comes in glory, through Christ our Lord.”