Patroness of the Americas Devotion: Our Lady of Guadalupe is honored by Latino Catholics in Maryland on her feast day.

December 15, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

With strumming guitars, colorful costumes, national flags and ethnic pride, Baltimore's Latino Catholics gathered yesterday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.

No Latino religious feast is quite complete without a procession, and as a prelude to the Mass attended by several hundred at the North Baltimore cathedral, about a dozen children marched up the front aisle of the church carrying red roses to be placed before a large picture of the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Girls wore dresses with intricate, multicolored embroidery, their hair tied with red, green and white ribbons, the colors of the Mexican flag.

The boys looked like small vaqueros, dressed in black pants, vests and sombreros; or they wore the white cotton shirt and pants once commonly worn by Mexican peasants. Children too young to march were carried by proud parents.

The feast day celebrates the appearance in 1531 by Mary, the mother of Jesus, to an Indian peasant named Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill near Mexico City. Mary sent Juan Diego to the local bishop to deliver a message and she instructed him to pick flowers and carry them in his mantle.

When he met the bishop, Juan Diego opened his mantle, red roses dropped out and a painted image of Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe was left on the cloth. That image is enshrined at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and copies of it adorn homes and churches in Latin America.

Our Lady of Guadalupe has always been recognized as the patron saint of Mexico, but she has come to be embraced by many in other Latin American countries.

"In Baltimore, we have people from every Latin American country," said Sister Mary Neil Corcoran, director of the Hispanic Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "She is the patroness not only of Mexico, but she has been proclaimed queen and patroness of all the Americas."

Cardinal William H. Keeler, who presided at the Mass, began to call out the names of the countries of Latin America and invited people in the congregation to respond when they heard their country of origin. Some shyly raised their hands, but a few of the more enthusiastic stood with arms aloft and waved their country's flag.

Keeler had returned Saturday night from Rome after attending the monthlong Synod of Bishops for America, a meeting convened by Pope John Paul II and attended by bishops from North, Central and South America. Keeler was accompanied to Baltimore by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, who served as the recording secretary at the synod.

During his sermon at the Mass, Sandoval told the congregation that the synod voted on 76 proposals that deal with spiritual and social issues. The proposals will be assembled into a document that John Paul is expected to release during a trip next year to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

Sandoval told the congregation of immigrants that the synod rec- ognized immigration as a human right, but one that is balanced by the rights of nations to enact laws to control immigration.

He urged his fellow Latinos not to succumb to the "culture of death" that they may face in their new country, a culture that includes moral hazards such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence and frequent divorce.

Sandoval noted that while it was an obligation for the church to embrace Latinos in this country, Latinos must also embrace the church. He urged parents to send their children to Catholic schools and told them that it was their responsibility to encourage their children to consider whether to pursue a religious vocation, particularly the priesthood.

"Open to your children the road to service in the Lord," he said.

Pub Date: 12/15/97

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