Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas and a unifying force for love for people of faith.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas and a unifying force for love for people of faith.

“Love means a connection with someone else,” shared Msgr. Joseph Roldan, rector of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, in his homily. 

Love was the overarching theme and feeling as hundreds gathered at the Mother Church of the Diocese of Trenton to light and send forth the Guadalupe Torches during a special Mass on Oct. 30. 

In breaking open the readings, Msgr. Roldan elaborated on the Gospel in which Jesus was asked to name the greatest Commandment. “Jesus gives us two, but we cannot separate them. We are to love God and to love our neighbor,” he preached, highlighting that “if you can’t show love, then you can’t feel it,” that love means taking action.  

“Feelings don’t feed the hungry. This is what the Blessed Mother has shown us. She trusted, was loyal, was faithful and she tells us to do the same… that is love,” shared Msgr. Roldan.  

PHOTO GALLERY: Lighting the Torches in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Mass marked the beginning of a month-long celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe during which the Torches would journey to parishes and communities throughout the Diocese. The faithful can look forward to celebrations, serenades, Rosaries, and opportunities to bring prayers as the 18 Torches are passed along their various routes.  

“Because of her (Mary’s) yes, we have salvation,”, shared Milady Gonzalez, music minister for the Cathedral.  

For Maria de Lourdes Tapia of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, it is for this reason that “it’s her who is in my heart. I feel so connected to her. I know that she is always with me. She helps me through everything. I offer my health problems and suffering to her,” Doña María shared emotionally, “because the suffering she went through was so much more than mine… before the Cross.”  

“We’re here today to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego,” shared 12-year-old Kevin Preciado, also from St. Ann Parish. “We’re here to remember when” she appeared to Juan Diego, asking him to speak with the bishop to have him build a church, an encounter that would lead to the greatest conversions to the faith in its history.  

A monthlong celebration 

Many of those present at the Mass shared personal stories of connection to the Mother of God.  

“My mother brought us close to Mary,” offered John Brandon, Knights of Columbus Master of the 2nd district of N.J. for the 4th degree and parishioner of St. Mary Parish, Middletown. “My hope is that she (the Guadalupana) is truly accepted by all Catholics throughout not just the Trenton Diocese but all of New Jersey and the rest of the world.” 

This year, the Knights of Columbus are playing a more pivotal role in the month of the traveling Torches. They are championing the journeys of two torches in Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer Counties as well as one in Burlington, bringing the torches and the accompanying dedication to Our Lady of Guadalupe to every Knights’ council in their territory.  

It’s very fitting, shared Jossie Ramos, bilingual administrative assistant for the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life. “It all comes back to them,” referring to a video produced by the Knights of Columbus about Our Lady of Guadalupe several years ago. That video is “what started the Torches” celebration which has been organized by the diocesan department and is now in its sixth year.

Following the Mass, the 18 torches will begin their unique journeys across the Diocese. Torch captains have volunteered to assure that their torch is handed off from one community to the other. The faithful are encouraged to participate whenever and wherever possible and can look to both parish and diocesan social media for photos and videos of the diverse celebrations.  

A Family Affair 

Ramos continued that the journey of the Guadalupe Torches through the Diocese in November is a special time for her family. “My little ones are excited to see what Torch, what parish, we’re going to get to see because we end up traveling and visiting most of the parishes.”

She continued, “I think that at the end of the day the most important thing is that they’re able to see that no matter where we go, Mass is still the same, and we still celebrate in English and Spanish, but everything is the same. That’s enriching for them and their faith.” 

The lessons people can take away from the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe, abound.

Many relate the support and love they receive from the Blessed Mother to the love they receive from their own birth mothers.  

“Always… she is always protecting us,” shared Gerardo Garrido of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat. “We feel her protection wherever we go. When I was coming here, I found myself in difficult situations and moments. I always put my trust in the Virgen Mary. She is a beacon of strength, and I knew I was protected.” 

Arturo Jarillo Suarez, also from St. Mary Parish, brought his family to the Mass in Trenton. “For us, Mary represents something huge. What she did. Thanks to her,” Jarillo continued, “she brought us here to our Lord Jesus Christ and we totally believe in the Mother of God.” 

Honoring the Blessed Mother is not something to do one day of the year, Jarillo added. “We should keep her in mind every day of our lives,” he said. “We need to do things well, continue moving forward, doing everything knowing that she is walking with us. We’re her children, right? Jesus accepted us as his brothers and sisters, and he gave her to us as our mother. We can turn to her and, I know, that she intercedes for us.” 

Ramos agreed. “No matter where we are, she’s so loving, so tender, and I think that’s where I lack a little in my motherhood, and so she helps me reflect on that.” 

The Torches will be reunited after their respective journeys on Dec. 4 in Lakewood for a pilgrimage from St. Mary of the Lake Church to Holy Family Chapel, followed by Mass and fellowship in honor of Our Lady. More information can be found at dioceseoftrenton.org/Guadalupe. 

“We’re so grateful to be here,” shared Jorge Alberto Preciado, father of young Kevin Preciado. “It’s awesome to do this as a family because we’re here sharing love. She (Our Lady of Guadalupe) is always present. Without love, we have nothing.” 

“For us, it is so special to be chosen for this,” shared Leticia Ruiz Castro, Preciado’s wife, adding that it’s her prayer “That the light we take from here today might be light for all families and all of our churches in these times.”

Greeley serves as associated director for the diocesan office of communications and media and as coordinator of Spanish-language communications.