Champaign Mass marks Guadalupe feast
CHAMPAIGN — More than 600 Spanish-speaking Catholics from the Champaign area were urged to let Mary lead them closer to Christ during a Spanish Mass celebrated in a festively decorated St. Matthew’s Church here on the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Our Lady always appears to open the way to a better encounter with her Son,” said Father Adolph Menendez, SX, director of the Office of Latino Ministry for the Champaign vicariate.
The Mass was one of many celebrations throughout the diocese recalling the appearance of the Blessed Mother to St. Juan Diego near present-day Mexico City in 1531. The feast is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for Mexicans and others of Latino culture.
More than an hour before Mass began, prayerful participants began arriving at the church, carrying paintings and candles bearing images of Our Lady of Guadalupe as well as flowers to honor her. All were arranged near the sanctuary and were blessed by Father Adolph as Mass began.
Leading songs to the Blessed Mother before Mass and hymns during the liturgy was the six-member Mariachi Nacional band, featuring guitar, trumpet and violin. Dozens of children dressed in traditional Mexican style led the opening procession and sat in the front pews.
The Mass featured a reading of the Guadalupe story with Regina Angel and Mauricio Contreras in the dress and roles of the Virgin of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego. Angel and Contreras are members of the large Spanish-speaking Catholic community served through the vicariate’s Latino ministry, based at St. John’s Catholic Chapel at the University of Illinois. A Mass in Spanish is celebrated there on Sunday mornings at 9. The Guadalupe celebration was moved to St. Matthew’s this year because it corresponded with finals week on campus.
During the Mass, Father Adolph led special prayers for pregnant women and, in the spirit of St. Juan Diego, for those who are widowed, who work the land, are indigenous, or who take care of seniors.
The St. Matthew’s celebration was one of four Guadalupe celebrations in Champaign-Urbana alone that day. It is estimated there are 7,000 Spanish-speaking Catholics in the region.