By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
Celebrating its third year in the Diocese of Trenton, the pilgrimage of Las Antorchas Guadalupanas – the torches of Guadalupe – has already begun in all four counties, with a few noteworthy changes.
Most remarkable is the addition of eight more torches, bringing the total to 15. The 2017 lineup of seven torches included a Pro-Life Torch and six that traveled to parishes throughout the Diocese before a rendezvous procession in Trenton to St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral. The overwhelming requests by parishes and Catholic schools for a torch visit over the past year prompted the Diocese to create more opportunities for the faithful to share in the journey, as the torches make their way to this year’s final diocesan procession Dec. 1.
“It’s the love the people have for the Blessed Mother,” Josué Arriola, director of the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life, believes has helped the torch pilgrimage to grow.
Diocesan pastors were sent resource packets over the summer, detailing what the torches represent, as well as activity suggestions for parish groups and schools when a torch arrives.
“The torch and the Blessed Mother are connected,” Arriola said. “The torch carries the light of faith … and the Guadalupe apparition is the only [image of the Blessed Mother] in which she is expecting Jesus – so she is the torch, carrying the light of Christ.”
“There’s definitely a growth in interest,” he continued. “So we have more torches this year, and we added an extra week [in October].”
Instead of being named by county, this year the torches each have names related to the Blessed Mother and her appearance to St. Juan Diego. The Image, Rose, Tepeyac, Tilma, Miracle and Apparition Torches will each visit five churches of the Diocese. Meanwhile, four Pro-Life and four Knights of Columbus torches – one for each county – were received in churches Oct. 28. Pro-Life torches will also go with the faithful as they pray before abortion clinics. A Catholic schools torch will visit Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, and St. Mary of the Lakes School, Medford. Other Catholic schools are sharing the parish’s torches.
Parishioners who know traditional Mexican dances will accompany most of the torches’ to their next destinations. Groups of dancers will also participate in the Dec. 1 procession throughout Trenton.
Another addition this year is a “blessings basket.” Each parish will have a basket in which prayer petitions can be collected when the torches visit their parish. These petitions will be carried to the Cathedral Dec. 1. That day, representatives will be on hand to offer Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards to observers, and asking them for their petitions as they process.
The prayer intentions will ultimately go on pilgrimage with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and other diocesan faithful on the Dec. 2-7 pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico.
“We as Catholics have an identity associated with pilgrimages, going back to the Ark of the Covenant,” Arriola said. “And Mary is the true Ark.”
To view a map of the Guadalupe Torch visits and Dec. 1 pilgrimage, as well as a resource booklet, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/dotguadalupe.