Trenton pilgrimage a testimony of faith as hundreds march in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe
By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor
“¡María es Reina! ¡María es Reina!” nearly 300 excited voices shouted in unison as the two pilgrim groups processing through the streets of Trenton Dec. 3 in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe met at the intersection of Olden and Clinton Avenues.
“Maria is Queen! Maria is Queen!” was only one cheer among many to erupt from the groups as they waved enthusiastically to each other across the street near St. Joseph Church, waiting for the stoplight to change from red to green so they could unite as one and continue the final leg of their pilgrimage to St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral on North Warren Street, where 400 more faithful would come together for Mass.
Related Photo Gallery: Diocesan celebration for Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Related Story: Couple makes it a mission to follow Blessed Mother around globe
“This brings us back to the foundation of our faith and how the Blessed Mother truly touches our hearts and brings people to Jesus,” said Msgr. Joseph Roldan, cathedral rector. “Her role has always been that of an intercession for the people.”
The pilgrimage was the cumulation of the series of traveling torch lightings, or Las Antorchas Guadalupanas, that began nearly six weeks ago across the Diocese. Since the beginning of November, torches honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe have been traveling to parishes in each county of the Diocese to encourage community and cultural prayer experiences.
Those torches came together the morning of Dec. 3, when those from Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean Counties began their miles-long pilgrimage from Immaculate Conception Church on Chestnut Street (part of Our Lady of the Angels Parish), to St. Joseph Church on North Olden Avenue to meet with their Mercer County counterparts before continuing as a whole the last few miles to the Cathedral, where Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was waiting to greet them with open arms.
“It was deeply moving for me as Bishop to see the tremendous love for and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and to be able to welcome the members of our ever-growing Catholic Hispanic communities who carried torches from each of the four counties of the Diocese to the doors of the Cathedral,” Bishop O’Connell said, reflecting on the diocesan celebration. “You could sense their faith and joy as pilgrims carrying roses, banners and statues filled the Mother Church of the Diocese.”
Walk of Faith
As he walked with his brothers and sisters in faith toward the Cathedral, Deacon Benito de Jesus Torres smiled and turned around in a little dance to the sounds of mariachi music.
“This shows the community that God wants us to come together – we are one Church, not churches,” Deacon Torres, liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the Hispanic community, said with a smile.
“God calls us to remember we are one family,” said Torres of Our Lady of the Angels Parish.
And the faithful – some playing traditional Mexican music on brass horns while others carried roses, Mexican flags, banners of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of course, the torches adorned with ribbons from parishes of all four counties of the Diocese – seemed to do just that as they waved to Trenton residents watching from windows and passing cars that honked their hello.
After a blast of festive music, the pilgrims fell into reverent prayer, reciting the Rosary as one voice until the next song of faith began. After more than two hours of walking, the faithful approached the Cathedral steps, where they were greeted by Bishop O’Connell. The pilgrims then filed inside past other diocesan leaders, laity and clergy on hand to meet them, including Father Rene Pulgarin, diocesan liaison for the Hispanic and Portuguese communites, who served as the homilist for the bilingual Mass, and Msgr. Roldan, who celebrated Mass.
Once the faithful were inside, representatives from each county carried their torch to the steps leading up to the sanctuary. There, the torches stood side by side, their weeks-long trek across the Diocese coming to a unified end. As a group from St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, carried a statue of the Patroness of the Americas to the front of the Cathedral, everyone stood, applauding and whistling with joy.
“Thank you for giving that testimony of faith in your life as you walked through the streets,” Father Pulgarin told the faithful. “What you did today was in the name of God brought through the name of Our Lady. … You’ve shown that the Catholic faith in the Diocese of Trenton is alive.”
Continuing the Mission
In his homily, Father Pulgarin, who also serves as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Keyport, praised the good works that stemmed from Las Antorchas Guadalupanas.
“What began months ago has come to a fulfillment by the blessing of God,” Father Pulgarin said. “What we did – going from parish to parish, praying together – is just the beginning of a pilgrimage of faith,” he said, encouraging the faithful to continue praying for vocations, justice, pro-life causes and strength within the Diocese in times of change.
“Leaving behind what separates us and embracing what unites us … This is what it means to be Catholic,” he said to the more than 500 people of all different cultures sitting in the pews before him.
After the Mass, the pilgrims gathered below the cathedral and across the street in the parish gym for performances by singing and dancing groups from around the Diocese as well as traditional food.
Tina Dinofo of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, said the pilgrimage and entire Las Antorchas Guadalupanas initiative was a boost for morale, and not just for those who have faith.
“Maybe someone will see this pilgrimage and say, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to go back [to the Church,]’” she said.
Added her friend and fellow parishioner Emilia Olvos, “Some say that we are not many in the faith, and you hear there’s not enough participation – not true. We are a lot.”[[In-content Ad]]