By PAUL A. BARRA and TIM BULLARD
Our Lady of Guadalupe may be the patroness of the Americas, but the Diocese of Charleston seems to be adopting her as its own. This year, pilgrims from the diocese journeyed to Mexico City to celebrate the Dec. 12 feast day of the lady known affectionately to Mexicans as La Morenita at the very spot on Tepeyac hill where she appeared to Blessed Juan Diego in 1531. Closer to home, parishes across the state held special liturgies and feasts in her honor.
In this city in the middle of cotton and tobacco country, parishioners of St. Jude welcomed migrant workers and their families from as far away as Cameron and Summerton. The vigil Mass on Dec. 13 was sung in Spanish by a choir with an international flavor; the leader and guitarist was Kate Smith Kennedy, but the singers were students from Spain and from Guatemala, Ecuador and other Latin American countries. The liturgy was preceded by a procession and followed by a Christmas party Hispanic-style.
The Word was proclaimed alternately in English and in Spanish, and Deacon B. J. Ellis laced his homily with Spanish-language expressions. His closing prayer was to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spanish.
The fiesta after Mass included a groaning board of food, Latina dances, a pinata and Luther Troop as Santa Claus. The families filled their old cars and vans with gifts. St. Jude has hosted the Guadalupe celebration for four years; the event continues to grow and the pastor knows who to blame.
“Guadalupe services are increasing, probably because of the ever-greater numbers of Hispanic Catholics (in the diocese),” said Redemptorist Father Michael Varady. “We have an active Hispanic ministry here and Alice takes care of everything for us.”
Alice is Alice Ingram. She said that the parish and the Sumter community at-large are “very supportive” of the St. Jude Migrant Ministry. For proof, she displayed the room full of bags of Christmas food and toys and clothing donated for the migrant families who are beginning to settle near the farm work that sustains them.
Another parish that serves as a beacon for Latino farm workers is St. Thomas the Apostle in North Charleston. Migrant workers from the sea islands south of Charleston go there to celebrate Mass on Sunday afternoons.
The Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego shortly after the Spaniards had subdued the native Mexican Indians. She was dark-skinned and dressed in symbolic Mayan clothes. Her initial miracles included Castillian roses found growing on a bare winter mountain and her image that appeared on the cactus-fiber cloak Diego was wearing. Pilgrims today can still view the miraculous image.