By Tony Gutiérrez, Catholic News Service

PHOENIX (CNS) — Viri González, 29, said her father almost died of COVID-19, and she credits his life to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe. So she was happy to dance in the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Honor Your Mother celebration.

Participating in the celebration was her way of giving thanks and showing love for Our Lady of Guadalupe, said González, a member of St. Catherine Parish in South Phoenix.

“It means being able to give her thanks for all ‘los bendiciones que nos ha dado’ (the blessings she has given us),” she said in in a mix of English and Spanish. “She’s the mother of Jesus, and the one that we always come and support and give our love to. Being able to come and give our love to the Lady of Guadalupe is very important for me.”

The annual procession took a hiatus last year, and the diocesan novena was celebrated virtually because of COVID-19. This year, the parade was Dec. 4, with a novena each day at a different parish in the diocese, culminating in the Dec. 12 Guadalupe feast. The parade concluded with an outdoor Mass celebrated on the street between the convention center and St. Mary’s Basilica.

In his bilingual homily, Father Fernando Camou, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, reminded those gathered that, in 1531, when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in what is today Mexico, it was a time of great chaos. Chaos reigned not only in the midst of a society that had practiced human sacrifice for centuries and a plague that was decimating the Indigenous population, but also across the ocean, where millions were leaving the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation.

“What does God do in the midst of so much violence, and then in the midst of the loss of faith?” he asked. “He looks on the lowliness of his servants. He sent Mary, who first said that the Lord had looked upon her lowliness, and she was filled with hope.”

Whether people face financial, familial or spiritual poverty, there are many false versions of hope, said Father Camou. He recalled the hopelessness that St. Juan Diego felt as his uncle was dying: “‘Am I not here? Am I not your health?’ She could say the same to you and me,” Father Camou said. “Once we remember our true hope, and we repent of our false hopes, we renew our true hope, by offering a sacrifice.”

Luis Villalobos of St. Anthony Parish said he was excited to participate this year. His wife, Sylvia, heads La Danza de la Morenita de Tepeyac, where his daughter, Juliana, dances and his 12-year-old grandson, Ynocc, plays drums.

“I think it went great,” Villalobos said in Spanish of the celebration. “We can now come together again, and we hope that this pandemic passes quickly.”

Sister Fatima Chavez, a postulant with the Carmelite Missionaries of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus who serves at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Scottsdale, attended Honor Your Mother for the first time, after arriving in the diocese from Oklahoma City about two months earlier.

“I think it’s very important for our liberty in these times that we have the power to demonstrate our faith as it is, with joy for Our Lady,” Sister Fatima said in Spanish. “Like St. John Paul II said, ‘Today, you are my mother.’ Therefore, we adopt her like that, we live like that, and we place our hope in her.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is an ideal patroness for the Diocese of Phoenix, said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. Just as she entered a chaotic world in the 16th century, “She’s a perfect example for us today because we live in a culture of death,” he said. “She came to a culture of death as a sign of how you turn it around, by bringing the Lord Jesus to us by being pregnant.”

Bishop Rafael Cob García of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puyo, Ecuador, also concelebrated the liturgy at the invitation of Mary’s Ministries, a local apostolate that helps organize the event every year.

“I am very devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe. This was an occasion I couldn’t miss,” he said in Spanish. “The joy of the people and the faith of the Catholic people of Phoenix can be seen.”

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