Our Lady of Guadalupe festival celebrates 50-year anniversary in Houston

November 8, 2022

Father William C. Bueche, C.Ss.R., receives the torch during the 24th annual International Relay Run of the Antorcha Guadalupana, an annual processional that sees a lit torch and images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego, run from Mexico City, through Texas, and ending at St. Patrick’s Cathedral New York City on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The torch procession visited several Houston-area parishes, including Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rosenberg and Christ the King in Houston. Below, wearing traditional costumes reflecting Aztec ancestry and influences, dancers with the ‘Danza Azteca’ group from Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston join in a procession honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2019. The lively festival returns to the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on Dec. 4.  a tile mosaic at St. Juan Diego Catholic Church in Pasadena depicts St. Juan Diego unveiling the tilma with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe adorned in red roses. (Photos by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — The large downtown Houston parade celebrating the Virgen de Guadalupe Festival is returning full force on Dec. 4, the first since the pandemic, with dancers, drummers, and Mass at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

While last year’s celebration was a scaled-down version, this year marks Houston’s 50-year anniversary of commemorating the Virgin Mary appearing as Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 to a humble peasant on his way to Mass in what is now Mexico City.

“For our 50th anniversary of celebrating Our Lady and her son Jesus, we are going greater and bigger being back at the convention center and downtown with more public involvement,” said Priscella Marquez of the Archdiocesan Association of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which organizes the event.

The procession will start at 8:30 a.m. in front of the downtown Chancery, 1700 San Jacinto St., with a blessing from Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS. Various Catholic church groups will have their Matachine dancers dressed in Aztec feather headdresses and other colorful costumes swirl through downtown arriving at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas.

A Rosary is scheduled there at 11:30 a.m. while Mass begins at noon with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo as celebrant and Bishop Dell’Oro as concelebrant. Then traditional dances and serenades will be performed starting at 2 p.m.

Lazaro Contreras, director of the Archdiocese Office of Hispanic Ministry, said, “As the Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a symbol of love and understanding, a unifying presence for all of us in the Americas.”

“This event helps families pass on faith and cultural values to younger family members, helping them nurture their spirituality. It also helps others learn more about Our Lady, whom Jesus gave to us as our mother as well,” he said.

The tradition honors the time on Dec. 9, 1531, on a hill of Tepeyac near a village in Mexico when now St. Juan Diego was stopped by the appearance of a brown-skinned woman bathed in light and speaking in his indigenous tongue of Nahuatl. She requested a church to be built on that site to manifest the love of Jesus and hear the petitions of the faithful.

At her bidding, he visited Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who doubted the story. But Juan Diego met with the Virgin Mary again on Dec. 12, now the official feast day, and she arranged roses within his cloak picked from the hill where only cactus had been growing before. She told him to present the flowers as a gift to the bishop.

When Juan Diego opened his cloak or tilma, the roses tumbled out, and the image of the Virgin Mary was miraculously traced on the coat, which still exists today. Realizing Juan Diego had told him the truth, the bishop began the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which led to massive conversions of indigenous to Catholicism. The shrine remains one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.

Individual parishes will also be celebrating at their churches on Dec. 12, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 2405 Navigation Blvd. Church staff member Rosario “Rosie” Martinez said parishioners will begin decorating for the festival on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 11, to prepare for a Dec. 12 midnight Mass in the church plaza. Then a morning Mass Dec. 12 will begin with the traditional song Las Mananitas with a Mariachi starting at 5 a.m. and Mass at 6 a.m.

A run for Our Lady

For the 24th time, the International Relay Run of the Antorcha Guadalupana passed through the Archdiocese.

In the final days of October, the procession, which features a lit torch run alongside two large images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego, visited several Houston-area parishes, including Holy Ghost and Christ the King in Houston, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rosenberg and others. The torch and the images were received at each parish with special prayers, Masses, and matachines and danzante performances.

Crowds of faithful turned out to venerate the images and pray for the intercession of Our Lady and St. Juan Diego. On sidewalks and country roads, as well as city thoroughfares, Catholic devotees carried the torch following the images, which were transported in a trailer with massive windows from parish to parish.

The 81-day relay began at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City in September, and runs through Texas, and ends at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in time for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.

Some 7,000 relay runners carry the torch. After visiting Holy Ghost, the torch was then run to Beaumont, where it will continue its journey to New York City.