Group strives for inclusiveness in celebration

November 25, 2014

HOUSTON — Growing up in Mexico, Pablo Guzman and his family, though they were Catholic, rarely attended church. 

Indeed, it wasn’t until his mid-20s, by which time he was living in Houston, that he took his First Communion at St. Charles Borromeo Church, where he is a parishioner. Despite an unchurched youth, Guzman was always aware of an iconic figure, often referred to in his community as “La Morenita.”

“Even if you don’t belong to the Catholic faith, you knew about Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Guzman said.

As vice president of the Guadalupana Association of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Guzman is helping to organize this year’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a celebration not only for the Mexican American community, but for all Catholics across the Archdiocese.

“We ask people to come and join us,” Guzman said. “Everyone is welcome. This is a wonderful time — with dancers and with (Daniel) Cardinal DiNardo.”

More than 5,000 people are expected to join in this year’s celebrations, which start at noon on Dec. 7 with a prayer and procession. 

Dancers, called matachines, and mariachi bands will accompany the crowd as it proceeds to the George R. Brown Convention Center. 

There, the festivities will continue with traditional songs and dancing, reflection and prayer in celebration of the appearance of the Virgin Mary, or Our Lady of Guadalupe, to Juan Diego in the early 14th century near Mexico City. The event culminates with a Mass at 5 p.m., conducted by Cardinal DiNardo. 

And in an effort to include all Catholics, whether they speak Spanish or not, more of the presentations will be conducted in English and Spanish.

“A lot of our members don’t speak Spanish, but they said, ‘I want to be with you,’” said Margie Casarez, president of the Guadalupana Association. “We want to do whatever it takes to involve everyone.”

Started in 1972 by a small group of like-minded people to honor and promote devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Archdiocese’s Guadalupana Association has flourished over the decades, reflecting the overall growth of the Hispanic community. 

Casarez said the association now counts dozens of groups, from such parishes as St. Benedict the Abbot, Prince of Peace and Immaculate Conception, all of which make preparations throughout the year for this all important day.

“This celebration is the culmination of the year-long activities that take place in Catholic parishes throughout the Archdiocese, all with distinct characteristics and with different ways to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Casarez said. “Some are large groups, some are small ones, but all have the same devotion to her and her Son, Jesus Christ.”

Typically celebrated on Dec. 12, the feast day is scheduled earlier by the Guadalupana Association to allow parishes to have their own celebrations. 

No doubt, all of them will strive for inclusiveness for the feast day, despite being so entwined with the Mexican national identity. 

“Our Lady of Guadalupe forms a strong bond among all Guadalupanos throughout the Archdiocese,” Casarez said. “She brings us together as one holy family.”