A strong faith brings people in Georgetown and Lexington to ceremonies honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe
It’s dark and cold outside. In a store parking lot in Lexington, several people are preparing a large statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, adorned with colorful roses and candles. She’s known as Mary, the mother of Jesus in Roman Catholicism. Four people are getting ready to carry the heavy statue in a procession for three miles to St Paul’s Church. Twenty-five-year-old Bryan Ortiz has been participating in the annual ritual commemorating her feast day since he was six-years-old.
“It’s like a way of like thanking her for all the blessings she’s given us. And like if we want her to take care of our family. If anybody we know is ill we come and make a promise to her. This is like us showing devotion to her,” said Ortiz.
A large drum accompanies dancers dressed in bright yellow shirts and green and gold aprons with an image of Mary on the front. The cultural dance is a way of thanking Our Lady who is recognized as a symbol of faith and hope to many Hispanic Catholics. More than 200 people including men, women, and children are bundled up, most wearing face masks, many carrying flowers and rosaries. They stand in a circle around the dancers getting ready for the procession.
The dancers fall in line behind those carrying the statue and lead the way down the sidewalk as the procession begins.
Some are praying, some are singing. Organizer Victor Juarez says his community has been marking the feast of Our Lady this way for 10 years. The 30-degree windy weather doesn’t bother him on this night. Juan Ortega translates when Juarez tells why he’s here.
“Today my faith is what makes me come by. It drives me to make this parade,” said Juarez.
The two men help escort the crowd safely across the busy street to begin the journey to St. Paul Catholic Church where Pastor Richard Watson is waiting to offer a blessing. Watson says Our Lady of Guadalupe is the unifying figure for Hispanic Catholicism and recognized as a central figure for Catholics in the Americas.
“It’s a religious celebration and it’s huge but it’s also cultural. Just like we have our Christmas celebrations, which are religious, but we also have our cultural Christmases. So, it’s both, just like that,” said Watson.
The group is winding its way down Versailles Road to Oliver Lewis Way, stopping a few times and praying the rosary.
It’s an emotional journey for 33-year-old Blanca Sosa. She feels like she’s received a miracle from Our Lady of Guadalupe.
”I have a three-year-old now. She was born at 27 weeks old. She was one pound. And so we do it for our devotion and our faith. She saved my baby and I thank God for it and I thank her for it,” said Sosa.
Along the route, Teresa McReynolds, a self-described friend of the Hispanic community greets Maria Elena Silva.
She points out how entire families, from grandparents to babies are part of the procession.
“You would never leave the children at home because this is how the family learns about their culture. It is a family. So, it’s an extended family. I’m part of the family and I’m born in southeastern Kentucky but I’m friends with people from all over Mexico,” explained McReynolds.
Silva says the procession happens no matter what the weather is.
“I love our Lady of Guadalupe. Raining, snowing we don’t care. We’re always here walking,” said Silva.
Devotees believe that Our Lady appeared in December 1531 to Mexican indigenous farmer, Juan Diego. It’s widely reported that after the apparition, her image appeared on the inside of Diego’s tilma or cloak. It remains on display at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Earlier Saturday people gathered in Georgetown where children reenacted the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing to Juan Diego.
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington presided over a mass there. He says this day is a reminder for the Mexican people of their dignity as a people.
“That God came in person to visit them. Sent his mother as His messenger and that God is always with them through all the struggles and trials of life,” said Stowe.
Back in Lexington, the procession is winding down as participants have arrived at St. Paul’s.