Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


‘Mother To All Peoples’ Crowned In Archdiocese

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published diciembre 20, 2007  | Available In English

Scores of men, women carrying babies, and youngsters crowded the newly crowned image of Our Lady of Guadalupe near the altar to take photos with cell phones, caress the image and touch the crown.

The nearly 90-minute Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King commemorated the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a unique way for the archdiocese and people wanted memories to take home.

Tatiana Orus, 35, a volunteer at the Cathedral’s Hispanic ministry, teared up as she spoke.

“The environment was incredible. All the people were feeling the same way for Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Orus, a native of Ecuador, where Mary is honored, but not to the same degree as in Mexico. She photographed the image with her camera. “This Mass was so beautiful.”

With its recent growth fueled largely by Hispanic immigrants, the Atlanta Archdiocese observed the feast day, a national holiday in Mexico, with an elaborate crowning of a blessed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe brought here from Mexico City. The event was the climax of an eight-month project to educate Catholics about Our Lady of Guadalupe, named the patroness of the Americas. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory also re-consecrated the Catholic Church in North Georgia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The ceremony moved Carlos Valdez, who is 40, to tears.

Valdez, an engineer who worships at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, called it “a very important sign of hope,” especially for immigrants.

Dora Torres carried the offertory gift of bread to Archbishop Gregory and is a long-time supporter of the project. She said the Mass was a sign of unity in the church.

“It is a (sign of) hope for us and a time of graces,” she said.

Catholics at the midweek Mass packed the mother church of the archdiocese. A side room was opened with a broadcast of the Mass to handle the overflow of worshippers. Young boys dressed as cowboys and girls wore traditional white dresses. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe adorned many shirts, including an image made of sequins.

Aztec dancers kicked off the celebration. With feathered headdresses and noisemakers around their ankles, the colorful dancers filed into the church at the head of the line of two dozen clergy.

Applause, drumming and shouts of “Viva!” (Long Live!) broke out in the standing-room-only cathedral as Archbishop Gregory crowned the image of Mary, a replica of the imprint on a 16th-century cloak that is venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Archbishop Gregory spoke in English and Spanish as he called Mary the “mother to all peoples.”

“Like any mother, she has literally gone to the end of the earth in pursuit of her children. And for what purpose has she so extended herself? Always to draw us to her son who is the source of life and the one spring of salvation,” said the archbishop.

Apparitions of Mary have occurred in every corner of the globe, from Ephesus, Turkey, and Knock, Ireland, to Jasna Gora, Poland, he said.

During his homily, Archbishop Gregory noted the special affection Hispanics—and especially Mexicans—carry for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In a subtle note of encouragement, the archbishop reminded the immigrants that despite the harsh political environment surrounding illegal immigration, God’s love and the love of the Virgin Mary remains.

“A mother’s love crosses every border and cannot be stopped by any force,” he said in Spanish.

According to church tradition, Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe to a man heading to Mass as the conquered Aztecs lived under Catholic Spanish colonial rule. Juan Diego saw the visions near Mexico City from Dec. 9-12, 1531. During Mary’s four apparitions she appeared as an Aztec princess and she instructed Juan Diego to ask the local bishop to have a church built there in her honor. The church leader eventually relented after seeing her image on Diego’s clock and had a church built on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, near which the basilica stands today.

Catholic leaders approved the apparition for the faithful to revere. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine and declared the feast a solemnity. Five years ago, Juan Diego was canonized with his feast day on Dec. 9.

The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is widely celebrated in Mexico and immigrants continued the tradition at the Peachtree Road church. Before the Mass, close to 150 dancers walked on their knees up the cathedral’s long aisle to the sanctuary as they danced and prayed in a sign of respect in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Still, the feast day is becoming more of a multicultural celebration. Worshippers prayed the rosary in five languages: Spanish, English, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese.

Jairo Martinez, the program coordinator and administrator of the archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry Office, said the enthusiasm for the teaching project was greater than expected. Identical blessed images were crowned on the feast in 10 other parishes across the archdiocese.

“In this catechesis and crowning process, we had 55 parishes participating. We thought there would be 10 to 15,” he said.

Martinez said the celebration’s goal was to bring unity to church members.

“In the long term, we have seen the need to continue the catechesis. We saw this as a beginning,” he said.

Plans are being formed for similar events in 2008, he said.