Our Lady of Guadalupe Torches bring light, hope, faithful say at closing Mass
As the fifth annual journey of the Torches of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Las Antorchas Guadalupanas – drew to a close, Edward Michalak reflected on how though this year’s event differed than previous celebrations, the spirit remained the same.
Unlike the past four years’ culminating rites, which drew upward of 1,000 joyous faithful to Trenton’s St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, this year's procession and Mass included only torch captains and some family members due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Although it is a somewhat muted celebration, that we still are able to have it allowed us to show our resilience,” said Michalak, one of torch 17 captains who gathered Dec. 5 in Trenton’s Cathedral for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Season of Remembrance Mass, which was livestreamed on all diocesan media outlets.
Photo Gallery: Torches of Our Lady of Guadalupe Closing Mass
“We showed that in spite of the public health crisis, we are able to talk about our faith and put it into action, especially this year in light of loved ones passing,” said Michalak of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, who captained the Knights of Columbus Burlington County torch for the third time in as many years.
He noted the special significance of the celebration’s added title this year – “A Season of Remembrance” – in which bereaved were invited to inscribe their loved one’s name on a virtual Wall of Remembrance on the Diocese of Trenton website. The readings of those names, 565 in all, from the ambo at the Las Antorchas Guadalupanas opening Mass Oct. 31 and closing Mass, were especially poignant moments, Michalak said.
A Vivid Reminder
The torches have been described by Josue Arriola, director of the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family life, which sponsors the annual pilgrimage, as a vivid reminder to implore Our Lady to intercede for the departed members of the diocesan family and keep all who grieve close to her heart.
The tapers featured prominently in the opening of the Mass. As the names of the deceased were solemnly read, young men from the Cathedral’s Guardians of the Altar ministry drew fire from the torches and lit 17 candles that were set in front of the altar table, in their memories.
Msgr. Joseph Roldan, Cathedral rector, celebrated the Mass. Concelebrating priests were Father Roberto Padilla, Cathedral parochial vicar; Msgr. John K. Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese and former Cathedral rector, and Conventual Franciscan Father Jose Guadalupe Matus-Castillo, parochial vicar in St. Junipero Serra Parish, Seaside Park.
In his homily, Msgr. Roldan spoke of Our Lady of Guadalupe as the “Blessed Mother who comes to us to lead her to her son,” especially at this time of year with the feasts of St. Juan Diego on Dec. 9 and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
“For so many people in need, she is a sign of hope, a sign of love,” he said, urging the faithful to “go back to the basics” by turning to her in this time of trial.
“That’s what our Blessed Mother wants. That is what we should think about … she can keep us close to our Lord. She wants to make him known to his people. … We need to put our trust in her because we know she loves us,” Msgr. Roldan said.
Sharing the Light
The captains who helped coordinate torch travels to parishes and schools around the Diocese throughout November reflected on the hopeful message conveyed over the past weeks.
Mary Morey of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, captained the Mercer County Pro-Life torch, and her husband, Richard, carried the Burlington County Pro-Life Torch at the Cathedral Mass. Both thought their participation would be a fine way to celebrate their status as “first-time grandparents.” Their daughter Alyssa Penick, who lives in Oklahoma, is pregnant with their first grandchild.
“The important thing was to get [the fire] out there,” said Mary Morey, adding that even if it was in a small setting, it was a way of keeping the fire lit.
Guadalupe Marin, St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, and captain of the Image Torch for two years, cited the list of parishes the Image Torch visited including St. Joseph, St. Denis, Manasquan; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lakewood; and St. Mark, Sea Girt.
“The Anglo and Hispanic members of the congregations enjoyed it very much,” Marin said. “It was really a nice way to let people know that we are here for you.”