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Guadalupe celebrations remind all of Mary’s faith, service

NEWBERRY — Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas, has a new shrine.

Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, officially blessed the shrine at St. Mark Church on the night of Dec. 11. It was part of the parish celebration of the feast of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.

About 300 people attended a 6 p.m. Mass that was followed by the dedication and reception. More gathered in a heavy rain later in the night for Mass in Spanish celebrated by Father Abdenago Vargas-Rodriguez, parish administrator.

Msgr. Laughlin invited the crowd to rededicate their lives to Mary and to the practice of their faith. His homily focused on the message that the Guadalupe story offers for today’s faithful. He said Mary’s appearance to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous Mexican, symbolized God spreading his love on earth through the figure of Jesus’ mother.

Msgr. Laughlin alluded to part of the story in which St. Juan Diego was asked by a bishop for a sign of Mary’s presence. She gave him roses in the middle of winter.

“When Juan Diego opened his [tilma] and roses fell out, they symbolized God’s love for all of us, a warm love, a love that forgives and understands,” he said. “It’s a love that will never go away, that is a great mystery. How can we even comprehend that God could give his only son for each one of us?”

Mary’s obedience to God’s word helped bring about the full presence of God’s love in the world through Christ, he said.

“God embraced all of us in our humanity, our sorrows, joys and achievements,” Msgr. Laughlin said. “He brought all of us to his sacred heart through Mary. She said ‘yes’ for all of us, ‘yes’ to God’s love for each one of us. She is the instrument that will crush all evil … when we honor Mary, we honor the one who is part of our redemption and salvation. If our human mothers love us so much, how much more does Mary love us and pray for us, does Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us?”

During the blessing, both Msgr. Laughlin and Father Vargas-Rodriguez described the importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Hispanics and all Catholics who honor her.

“We know many people are looking for a place like this, and maybe it will be a place where people who may have lost their faith can find it again,” Father Vargas-Rodriguez said.

He said the shrine took more than six years to build, and he decided to work towards its completion when he arrived at the Newberry parish in March. He said parishioners raised money to finish the construction and a parishioner and engineer, Joe Goeckner, helped complete the sacred place in time for the blessing.

Msgr. Laughlin said the altar adds an important element to Marian devotion in the diocese.

“This shrine is a sign of your love for Mary, and I know Mary will always bless you and keep you because of it,” he said.

“I think it’s wonderful, it’s like a dream come true to have this here,” said Edlin Delvalle, a member of St. Mark. “Our Lady is our patron saint, and she’s done a lot of miracles for a lot of people.”

Other events in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place throughout the state between Dec. 11-14. St. James Church in Conway and Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek held celebrations that included special Masses, processions and plays. The event also featured traditional Aztec dancing.

St. John of the Cross in Batesburg-Leesville drew about 900 people to its annual celebration, held in a local gymnasium. The crowd recited the rosary together in Spanish, watched local youth act out the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and attended a Mass celebrated by Father Filemon Juya, administrator of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Charleston.

Father Juya’s homily focused on Mary’s various roles in the church, including being a symbol of service and submission to God’s will, as well as taking on the role of spiritual mother of all Catholics.

Our Lady of Guadalupe also provides an important message of God’s enduring love for the downtrodden and oppressed, he said.

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