BUSHWICK — The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe — one of the most joyous holidays in Mexico — is also one of the largest celebrations in the Diocese of Brooklyn, drawing thousands of the faithful to the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph for a Mass followed by processions back to their home parishes.
But for one Ridgewood couple, the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is also a quiet, private activity.
Armando and Alejandria Ochoa, parishioners of St. Brigid Church in Bushwick, are leaders of a church group that brings the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe into people’s homes.
By doing this, they give families the chance to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the privacy of their homes, where they might feel freer to express their feelings more openly than they might in public.
“We want to help people,” Armando explained. “Many people, they want to pray because they are sick with cancer. Sometimes, it’s someone who has drugs in the family and they want to pray for them to heal.”
The Ochoas, who have been leading the devotional group at St. Brigid Church for about 15 years, were named winners of a Shining Star Award by Catholic Migration Services and will receive their award at the services’ annual dinner. The dinner was originally scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29, but was postponed due to bad weather and flooding. A new date has not yet been set.
Father Carlos Velásquez, pastor of St. Brigid Church, is an admirer of the Ochoas. “They are pillars of our community here at St. Brigid, people who are always there supporting anything we do. They are all about faith and family,” he said.
The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe isn’t the only way the couple live out their faith. Armando, manager of a textile company, is president of the parish pastoral council and is a lector. Alejandria, a housecleaner, is also a member of the council, and serves as a Eucharistic minister and a catechist.
Their shared activities not only bring Armando and Alejandria closer as a couple, they also keep the family close, Alejandria said. “The husband and wife must walk hand in hand for the family to be strong,” the Spanish-speaking Alejandria said as her husband translated.
The couple, who have been married for 31 years, have two children and two grandchildren.
Armando and Alejandria came to the U.S. from their native Mexico separately in 1988. But they knew each other in their home country.
Following their marriage, they settled in Ridgewood, began attending Mass at St. Brigid Church and quickly became active in the parish and in the diocese’s Mexican Apostolate, including helping to organize the enormous celebration for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe each December.
“They do a lot of work. It is a big job to put a celebration like this together,” said Father Baltazar Sanchez Alonzo, director of the Mexican Apostolate.
This celebration will take place this year on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Last year, 44 parishes from around the diocese took part.
The feast is important to the Ochoas for another reason, Armando explained. “Sometimes, when people come to America, they forget our beautiful customs from the old country,” he said. “This feast is a way to keep it alive here.”
The home visits are a part of that effort to preserve Mexican culture. The Ochoas lead a small group of five or six parishioners to the home of a family that requested help. “We will stay with the family for a while and offer words of encouragement,” Armando said.
Alejandria sees the visits as an evangelization tool. “It is important to bring the faith directly to the people, where they live, especially the young people,” she explained.