Faith extravaganza floods streets of downtown Phoenix

Matachines shake their maracas during a procession that opened the annual Honor Your Mother event in downtown Phoenix Dec. 3. (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)
Matachines shake their maracas during a procession that opened the annual Honor Your Mother event in downtown Phoenix Dec. 3. (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)

In an outpouring of unabashed affection for Our Lady of Guadalupe, hundreds of Catholics from every corner of the Diocese of Phoenix descended on the downtown area Dec. 3 for a day of festivities, fanfare, food, and most of all, faith.

Now in its 11th year, the Honor Your Mother event is a colorful, family-friendly day that begins with a procession which this year featured more than 70 groups. Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, the guest homilist for the outdoor noon Mass that followed, stood beside Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares on the stage set up on Monroe Street across from St. Mary’s Basilica and the Diocesan Pastoral Center as they blessed the passing groups.

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Dozens of dance troupes and matachines, arrayed in beaded and sequined costumes that paid homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, shook their maracas, beat drums, and blew conch shells. Many wore feathered headdresses and a few groups sported peacock feathers. Choruses of “La Guadalupana,” a popular hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe, were sung with gusto as the faithful carried banners and held aloft statues of the Virgin Mary.

(John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)
(John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)

Many of the children, like 12-year-old Alma Melendez, were wearing costumes too. More than a few mothers and fathers held babies dressed as St. Juan Diego or the Blessed Virgin. Melendez was dressed as the Virgin of Guadalupe while her younger brother, Samuel, 9, portrayed the ailing uncle of St. Juan Diego.

“All week we were telling her that if she was going to represent the Virgin Mary that she needed to represent that around the house as well,” said Erica Melendez, the children’s mother.

Whether in the procession or on the sidelines, Catholics converged for a public display of faith. Marabel and Alex Guerrero of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish had their 4-month-old daughter, Anabel Guadalupe, bundled up in a stroller. It was the first time they’d ever attended Honor Your Mother.

“We just want to show Anabel at a young age to keep her faith real close to her and so that as she grows she’s always interacting with the Catholic Church,” Marabel said.

In his homily at the Mass that took place after the procession, Archbishop Wester told the crowd “honoring Our Lady is to make Jesus the center of our lives just as Mary did” and that doing so was not something superficial but involved “a real transformation.” Mary put her faith in action and so must we, the archbishop said.

Being one with Mary is to be one with her son, Jesus Christ, the archbishop said. He also highlighted a prayer to the Virgin Mary that speaks of returning her beloved Son to her.

Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)
Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, told Phoenix-area Catholics that they can honor Mary today by making Christ the center of their lives. (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)

“How do we give Mary’s beloved Son back to her? We do it through love,” Archbishop Wester said. “Love communicates Christ.” It was because of love that Jesus “pitched His tent in our midst. It was for love of us that He died and rose again on the third day.” That same love is made new at the Mass where we are “sent forth to bring Christ to those we encounter on the way,” and that can take place through outreaches such as feeding migrants and working in the pro-life movement.

“Today we honor Mary by making Christ the center of our lives. … There is nothing He will not do for you when you open yourself to Him.”

Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the diocesan division of ethnic ministries, said Honor Your Mother is a great way for all Catholics to express their love for Our Lady.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is our patroness, so to find a way to give honor to her as a diocesan community, it just builds the community even more.”

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