Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., accepts the gifts during Mass celebrating Las Antorchas Guadalupanas in 2017 as Father Michael Wallack looks on. “I attribute my conversion to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Father Wallack says. Craig Pittelli photo
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., accepts the gifts during Mass celebrating Las Antorchas Guadalupanas in 2017 as Father Michael Wallack looks on. “I attribute my conversion to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Father Wallack says. Craig Pittelli photo
" Many people … think it’s just a Mexican devotion, but they don’t realize she’s our Patroness for the Americas. "

Father Michael Wallack grew up with both parents sharing their love of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the family. His mother, who was born on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day of Dec. 12, prayed a Novena every month for a decade on behalf of her son, about whose future she was concerned.

“When I told her I was going to be a priest, she said, ‘I knew Our Lady would work [in your life], but I didn’t expect that!’” recalled Father Wallack, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown. “I attribute my conversion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and my mother was a great example to me.”

St. John the Baptist is one of more than 40 locations around the Diocese hosting torches for the fourth annual Las Antorchas Guadalupanas, the diocesan pilgrimage of traveling torches honoring the Blessed Mother under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Father Wallack, whose parish will host a torch Nov. 30, said, “[It can] open our eyes to the larger participation … you can never go wrong going to the Queen Mother! Especially for our nation now, we need her more than ever.”

The Torches of Our Lady of Guadalupe began with a sendoff Mass Oct. 26 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, as 16 torches were ignited. They are currently making their way throughout the Diocese of Trenton, many of them stopping at various parish or school sites.

Four of the torches are represented by Knights of Columbus councils in each of the four counties, as are four more pro-life torches. One school – Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton – will also host a torch, and one torch will travel to Jesus, Bread of Life Catholic Cemetery, Hainesport.

The celebration culminates at 8 a.m. Dec. 7 in a pilgrimage beginning at Immaculate Conception Church, a worship site of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 540 Chestnut Ave., Trenton. From there, a procession will follow the torches on foot to their final destination of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral. Mass will follow, celebrated by Bishop O’Connell.

The pilgrimage route this year will travel four extra city blocks en route to the Cathedral, passing by Planned Parenthood and the Rescue Mission of Trenton.

St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, is among the parishes hosting a torch this year. Father William Lago, pastor, said that he is optimistic about what the visit will offer the parish religious education children. “I hope [they] will have a great opportunity to learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe … and realize her special care and love for them.”

Father Wallack, too, reflected on how different ministries, including the Knights of Columbus, the Rosarians, St. Vincent de Paul and 50-plus Club, plan to attend each night of the torch’s visit to pray.

“I’m trying to get [parishioners] to have that devotion to the patroness that my mother prayed to for 10 years for me,” he explained. “Many people … think it’s just a Mexican devotion, but they don’t realize she’s our Patroness for the Americas.”