The inclement weather did not deter the joy and enthusiasm for all who participated in the Torches of Guadalupe procession.
The inclement weather did not deter the joy and enthusiasm for all who participated in the Torches of Guadalupe procession.
Persistent wind and rain didn’t dampen the devotion of faithful pilgrims Dec. 3, as they journeyed together in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Accompanied by vibrant floats, joyous musicians and dancers, pilgrims traversed the streets of Lakewood as they brought the 21 Torches of Guadalupe (Antorchas Guadalupanas) from the grounds of St. Mary of the Lake Church, part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, to Holy Family Chapel, also part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, for a closing Mass.

Photo Galleries: ProcessionProcession and Closing Mass

The procession route, which ran more than three miles for the Diocese’s seventh annual celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, included families, various groups and people of all ages from numerous parishes. Many on pilgrimage wore brilliant costumes indigenous to various regions of Mexico to honor Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

More than 1,500 marchers, along with many more awaiting the procession’s arrival at Holy Family Chapel and scores watching the procession via livestream, joined together as one community of faith in praise and honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The weather inspired pilgrims to wear transparent plastic ponchos and create float canopies to protect the religious statues, vivid streamers, sequined costumes, and decorative flowers.

Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner Carlos Sosa explained, “Today, every year here, it does not matter about the weather.  Even if it snows it is good!”

Ana Xelhua of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, was dressed in the iconic rebozo garment, similar to a shawl, as she prepared to perform the El Rebozo dance. Originating in Puebla, the dance is, as Xelhua described, “a way of honoring Mary.” Celebratory marchers from St. Junipero Serra Parish, Seaside Park, wore the familiar masks of Mexican communal ceremonial celebrations.

Hugh Chacon led a group of dancers in ornate sequined regalia of pink, red, silver and gold, embroidered with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  They danced the Aztec Dance along the entire parade route, stepping and kicking side-to-side as well as marching forward. Chacon’s mother hand-sewed the costumes, creating distinct features in each. As Chacon explained, “It is a dance that honors the Virgin of Guadalupe who changed the lives of many Aztecs who had gone astray.”

Some marchers simply wore the practical garb of the day: raincoat, sneakers, and umbrella. Maria Madrigal marched near the front of the procession. Despite the soaking rain, her spirit was buoyant as she proclaimed the experience, “Excellent … everything was great!”

Diane Cardona, who also announced the arrival of the torches at the closing Mass which followed the procession said, “It is one of my favorite events of the year.  I love it! As a kid we learned devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Now, families are passing it on to the next generation.  It is not just a celebration for Catholics.”

Onesimo Moro, parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe, organized the food tents at Holy Family.  His hearty group of volunteers huddled under the tents preparing warm food and warm drinks. “It is wonderful to work for the parish and for God.  But, before the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration I was not too close to my faith. This celebration brought me closer to my faith and helped me change my life around.”

The Cabrera Morales family’s three young daughters excitedly splashed in puddles as they awaited the arrival of the procession. The youngest beamed, “I am waiting for Santa Maria, and I want to meet Jesus.”

In this, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish’s second year of hosting, its pastor Divine Word Father Guilherme Andrino’s enthusiasm was palpable and unbounded. Father Andrino spoke of the parish’s growing understanding of the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration and the anticipation leading up to Dec. 3.  “After the merger of our parishes, we are three different communities who are now one. This kind of celebration is always an opportunity for people to come together and be one community. No matter where we come from, the center is always going to be God, and Mary is always part of our tradition.”