Saints who’ve had an impact on the Diocese of Phoenix

Our Lady of Guadalupe 

Fr. Humberto Almazán (center), the famed movie star turned priest as a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, preached the homily for a special Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12, 1971 at the invitation of Bishop Edward A. McCarthy (left). Bishop McCarthy dedicated the Diocese of Phoenix to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Mass, formally making her the patroness of the diocese. Fr. Almazán, who continued to use his acting talents after being ordained, had recently completed the film “Rain for a Dusty Summer,” a biopic on now Blessed Miguel Pro. (CATHOLIC SUN file photo)

Feast Day: Dec. 12

The mother of God first appeared to St. Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant and recently baptized Christian, on Tepeyac Hill in 1531, while he was on his way to visit his sick uncle. She identified herself and asked that a shrine be built in that spot. Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, the missionary bishop of Mexico, dismissed Juan Diego’s claims when the peasant visited him.

Our Lady told Juan Diego to trust her, asking “Am I not your mother?” She told him his uncle had been healed and to pick some flowers to present to Bishop de Zumárraga. When he arrived at the bishop’s palace, he opened his cactus cloak, or “tilma,” and Castilian roses fell. The flower, not native to Mexico, was immediately recognized by the Spanish missionaries. The bishop and his priests immediately knelt to the floor, and when Juan Diego looked at his tilma to see why, he saw the image of Our Lady imprinted on it.

“Prior to the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, human efforts to evangelize the native peoples of America had miserably failed. Many who came from Europe, 500 years ago, made Christianity look like a religion of Conquistadores, a religion lacking in compassion and aimed at domination through military power,” wrote Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in his column published in The Catholic Sun in 2015.

“But Our Lady of Guadalupe changed all that. She showed herself to be not only the Mother of God but also the Mother of His people. Through her choice of Juan Diego to be her messenger, she overcame the fallibility of human efforts, even the scandal of unjust aggression by a conquering army made up of baptized Christians. She showed herself to be truly the Mother of Mercy.”

The tilma should have deteriorated within 20 years but to this day shows no sign of decay. It is currently displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is the most visited Marian pilgrimage site in the world with more than 20 million people visiting each year. She is the patroness of Mexico, the United States and all of the Americas, as well as the protector of unborn children.

Her feast day marks the anniversary of when she appeared to St. Juan Diego.

A young woman dressed as Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing to St. Juan Diego stands on this float from the 2016 Honor Your Mother Procession in this file photo from Dec. 3 of that year. (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)

Impact on the Diocese of Phoenix

In December 1971, Bishop Edward A. McCarthy dedicated the Diocese of Phoenix to the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe during an open-air Mass attended by 7,000. The very first edition of Alive magazine, the precursor to The Catholic Sun, published in December of that year, publicized the upcoming consecration.

“The Mexican people of our diocese will rejoice at the warmth of the honoring of their familiar mother. The rest of us will rejoice at the honoring of the lady who became by the force of personality the Lady of the Americas,” the article read.

“In this diocese, symbolized so appropriately by the Phoenix Bird in the official coat of arms, we have caught the special significance of the flames that surround the Lady of Guadalupe in her traditional picture.”

The diocese honors its patroness annually with the Honor Your Mother procession and Mass.