LACEY - Dozens of children - some dressed as peasants - proceeded down the aisle Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary, bearing roses to place near the altar.
About 400 families attended the fourth annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration at the church, which included Mass with Bishop Eusebio Elizondo – who the Seattle Archdioscese says is its first Hispanic bishop – followed by a reception with food, music and clowns.
The church has a growing number of Hispanic families joining as parishioners.
“It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the Hispanic community,” said Julie Carrasco Pietz, one of the event’s organizers. “We revere the mother of God.”
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The feast day celebrates the story of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, in the 16th century just before Catholicism was widely practiced in Mexico.
According to the story, Juan Diego was able to persuade the Spanish bishops in Mexico City to build a church in Mary’s honor on Dec. 12, only after he brought them Castilian roses, which are impossible to grow in the winter, and the apparition of Mary appeared in his cloak as a sign that she had chosen him as her messenger.
For many Mexican Catholics, the story is a reminder that God works through ordinary people and not just the powerful, said Alex Myron, a member of the church’s Hispanic ministry.
“By talking to Juan Diego, she appeared to someone who is poor and with humility,” Myron said.
Myron said the number of services through the church’s Hispanic ministry is increasing.
“We have a prayer group, which started out with 20 people, and now we have more than 150 people,” he said.
Three hundred to 400 parishioners attend the church’s two monthly Masses in Spanish, said church pastoral coordinator Ferrell Gilson, and Sacred Heart plans to add a third monthly Mass in Spanish in January.
The church also hosts events for feast days celebrated by other cultures, including Saturday evening’s Simbang Gabi, a Filipino Christmas season traditional Mass.
Myron said one of the great things about Sacred Heart’s celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe was that non-Hispanic parishioners decided to join in the feast day.
“We have Filipino, Americans and Hispanics all here,” he said. “We are sharing this with our brothers.”
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