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Personal commitment to Mary marks celebrations in the Upstate

Two-year-old Luis Yahir Solano is dressed as St. Juan Diego, with an embroidered image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his shirt, for the celebrations at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville.

Two-year-old Luis Yahir Solano is dressed as St. Juan Diego, with an embroidered image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his shirt, for the celebrations at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville.ANDERSON—Hundreds of people of all ages celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe across the Upstate.

The observance of Our Lady of Guadalupe was on Dec. 12, but many parishes kicked off the celebration Dec. 11 with midnight Masses and music.

At St. Mary of the Angels Church in Anderson, which has been celebrating the feast day for several years, people from St. Mary and other area parishes joined in a midnight singing of the mananitas, or happy birthday, to Mary.

“[St. Mary of the Angels] has a big Hispanic population,” said Jaqueline Santillan de Diaz, a member of St. Joseph Church in Anderson. She participated in the Friday night celebration at St. Mary.

On Dec. 12, Santillan de Diaz and her family attended an 11 a.m. Mass at their church. Father Hayden J. Vaverek, pastor, said it was the parish’s first observance of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Around 50 people joined that celebration, which opened with adults and children offering flowers for Mary.

In his homily, Father Vaverek said that while the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not considered a holy day of obligation by the church, unlike the feast of the Immaculate Conception also celebrated this month, it is a very personal commitment.

“It is worthy of our belief that Mary visited God’s people in Mexico,” Father Vaverek said. “It’s the same lady whom we honor today that we honored on Dec. 8 this year.”

Pope John Paul II gave the liturgical celebration the rank of solemnity in 1999 when he named Our Lady of Guadalupe patron of the Americas.

“The mother of our Lord is the mother of our Lord. She is the beautiful mystery of God’s love given to us by Christ himself on the cross,” Father Vaverek said. “Dec. 12 is a great feast day for our nation and our hemisphere.”

Meanwhile, on the evening of Dec. 12 at St. Paul the Apostle Mission in Seneca, several hundred people marked the occasion with traditional Mexican music and dance. An even larger crowd gathered for a midnight Mass the night before.

Father C. Alexander McDonald, pastor of the St. Paul mission, led the celebration that included a reenactment of the day, nearly 500 years ago, when Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared to St. Juan Diego.

Children from elementary to high school participated in the festivities, which concluded with food and fellowship in the church hall.

Santillan de Diaz, who moved from Tennessee to Anderson with her family in 2008, said she is already planning a bigger celebration next December at St. Joseph.

“As Mexicans, this is the most important celebration in Mexico,” she said. Schools and businesses typically close in that country when the celebration falls on a weekday.

“In the USA, there are not a lot of celebrations, so we try to keep in mind how important the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration is,” Santillan de Diaz said.

Some of the other Upstate parishes that celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe included Prince of Peace in Taylors, St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, and St. Paul the Apostle and Jesus, Our Risen Savior in Spartanburg.






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