Kevin Bronson from Topeka, Kan., was attending the last day of a career and technical education conference at the Phoenix Convention Center on Dec. 2 when he stumbled upon an outdoor celebration honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Bronson, a convert to Catholicism, credits Our Lady for bringing him closer to her Son and felt it was providential to discover the 19th Annual Honor Your Mother Mass and Procession, the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual celebration for its patroness.
“This is so sentimental to me,” said Bronson, who attends Christ the King Parish in Topeka. “She blessed me. She helped me through the darkest times of my life.”
Bronson — who was raised Lutheran — began his process of entering the Church when he got married. He was pleasantly surprised to discover the celebration and appreciated the cultural expressions.
“We were staying in this area, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is so amazing to stop by and see this,’” said the father of two teenage boys. “Just being able to see things in a different light, a different culture, different way that we celebrate, yet no matter where we’re at, what part of the region we’re in, that we still understand.”
This is the second year that the celebration began and ended at the plaza between St. Mary’s Basilica and the Diocesan Pastoral Center across the street from the Convention Center, with dance performances followed by the Mass and then a procession that traveled from Monroe Street to First Street, south to Washington Avenue, then back up Fifth Street returning to Monroe.
In previous years, the procession began at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish located at the corner of Ninth Street and Washington. Ignacio Rodriguez, diocesan director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, said that rearranging the order encouraged more people to participate in the Eucharistic liturgy.
“The change has been good because we’ve been able to get people here celebrate the Mass, the importance of the Eucharist and then the procession,” he said.
Bishop John P. Dolan celebrated the liturgy, with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares preaching the homily. In his homily, he noted that over five million indigenous Americans were converted to the Catholic faith “because the love of God shone in the Blessed Virgin Mother.”
Holding up a rosary, he reminded the outdoor multi-parish congregation of the importance of praying as a family, exhorting them not to be afraid to pray in public.
“The Holy Rosary has been a powerful, powerful instrument of holiness and of divine help in our time of need. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, we got away from praying as a family this holy Rosary and look at the disaster that has come upon our families,” the bishop said. “It’s time to get back to praying this holy Rosary as a family, pleading to our blessed Mother to intercede for us today in our time of need.”
Sandra Palacios, a 17-year-old senior from Humanities and Science High School in South Phoenix, has been dancing since she was a child dancing the traditional matachine dances with her father.
“I’ve always really enjoyed their dances. I would like dancing for me for la Virgen,” said the St. Agnes parishioner. “You can always pray to her. There’s always little things that come your way. She’s really beautiful, y tan bonita y todo eso. It means a lot and it goes on for generations in my family.”
At St. Helen Parish in Glendale, the primary English-language community has a perpetual Adoration chapel named for Our Lady of Guadalupe and celebrates her on Dec. 12 feast day every year.
“It’s a great joy for our parish, and the source of the vibrant life that we have in our parish to have Perpetual Adoration there at the chapel,” said Jon Lindell, a candidate in the diocese’s Deacon formation 2030 cohort, “and it’s because of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
Lindell credits her for his own continued discernment, especially after completing a 33-Day Consecration to Mary several years ago.
“She’s always brings me back to Jesus,” he said. “In those moments where life distracts me, calls me away or whatever, I lose my focus, I lose my way, just like the tender mother she is, she always brings me back and keeps me focused on her Son.”
For Susana Gutierrez, a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale, honoring Our Lady through the Danza Guadalupana — a multi-parish dance troupe — is a sign of her devotion. Her 97-year-old father Marciano, who is wheelchair-bound, still banged the drum for her during the procession.
“She is my mother whom I respect so much,” she said in Spanish. “She’s the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, so I come to venerate her.”