By Marie Elena Giossi
Shouts of “Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!” could be heard through the streets of Ridgewood on Saturday evening, Dec. 7.
Parishioners of St. Matthias Church celebrated their beloved Our Lady of Guadalupe with a street procession, solemn Mass celebrated in Spanish by Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez and cultural festivities in anticipation of her Dec. 12 feast day.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under this title began on Tepeyac Hill, near Mexico City, where she revealed herself as an Aztec princess to a poor Aztec Indian named Juan Diego in December, 1531. She miraculously placed her image on his cloak, which is displayed to this day in the basilica named in her honor on the hill where she appeared.
Last Saturday evening, flags from various Latin American nations and a band led the way for four men carrying a large image of the Guadalupe Virgin, also known as patroness of the Americas, nestled amid dozens of fragrant red and white roses.
When the procession wound its way back to church, Father Silvaster Sarihaddula, parochial vicar, sprinkled holy water on the image and the crowd, including some boys dressed as Juan Diego.
Families filled the pews of the lower church for the 7 p.m. Mass. Concelebrants included Msgr. Peter Zendzian, new pastor; Msgr. Edward Scharfenberger, former pastor; Father Lázaro Núñez, director of Radio Maria; Msgr. Steven Ferrari, who instituted the parish’s Spanish Mass 23 years ago; and Fathers Daniel Rajski and Sarihaddula, parochial vicars.
In his homily, the bishop spoke of how the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds us that we gather at the feet of the Blessed Mother with joy like John the Baptist when he was in the womb of Elizabeth.
“John leapt for joy when Mary visited because Jesus was near in her womb. We also leap for joy because Jesus is close to us as we honor His Mother under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” the bishop said. “Mary is the one who trusted that God’s words would be fulfilled. We are invited to grow in the same trust and humility.”
The bishop also shared the words of Pope Francis at a recent gathering of bishops at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. “He encouraged them and all of us to live as missionaries of God’s message, reaching out to others, dialoging with them, walking with them and seeking to inflame their hearts with God’s love.
Instruments of God’s Goodness
“Mary is our model here as one who patiently allowed God to enable her to be an instrument of His grace,” he said. “May we also be instruments of God’s goodness!”
Members of various parish ministries participated in the offertory, carrying banners and presenting themselves before the bishop as gifts to Mary and the Church.
Martha Frias gave the gift of song to the Virgin Mary as she performed with the choir at Mass.
“Holy Mary is very important to me,” she said. “I am so excited to be here, and I feel so proud to sing for her.”
Her gift to Mary was even more meaningful because Frias, an expectant mother, has spent the last eight months praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the only pregnant apparition of Mary.
Traditional Mexican fare and festivities followed Mass in the parish hall. Attendees enjoyed handmade tamales and pernil while watching the movements of the Comparza Guadalupana tribal dancers, coordinated by Benito Merino from St. Brigid parish, Bushwick.
A dramatic representation of the apparition on Tepeyac Hill followed, and then children presented other popular Marian images on banners.
“Everyone has their own version of mom,” said Msgr. Zendzian, who enjoyed getting to know his new parish, having arrived just before Thanksgiving.
As remembrances of the celebration, the parish presented gifts of chalices and patens to the bishop, Msgr. Scharfenberger and Msgr. Ferrari.