PROVIDENCE — The diocese’s annual celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe drew over a thousand people, largely from the Latino community, to the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul last Thursday for a night marked by likely music, colorful costumes and devotion to Mary.
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The Most Reverend Robert C. Evans, the Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, presided at the Mass. Before the Mass began, Bishop Evans venerated a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, festooned with bright flowers on the right side of the sanctuary. At the end of the Mass, Bishop Evans offering a special blessing as hundreds in the congregation held up their rosaries.
“Draw near, we pray, to these your servants and, as they use these symbols of their faith and devotion, grant that they may also strive to be transformed into the likeness of Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns forever and ever,” Bishop Evans prayed.
Several local priests participated in the celebration of the Mass. Father James Ruggieri, the pastor of St. Patrick Church in Providence, offered a homily in Spanish.
The feast day commemorates a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 1531 in the Mexican village of Guadalupe. The apparition is notable for the image the Virgin Mary left on his tilma, which has proved something of a scientific mystery, surviving a church bombing during the Mexican revolution and an acid spill during a routine cleaning.
The Mass was accompanied by the music of a mariachi band led by Veronica Robles, a Mexican native who now lives in Boston. Robles told the Rhode Island Catholic she felt chosen by Our Lady of Guadalupe to perform at her Masses. She has been singing at Masses for the feast day since she was a young girl.
“For me, it’s very special. It’s not just coming and singing a song,” Robles said. “It’s just me singing my soul out. This is very special for me and sometimes I want to cry so I have to hold it.”
Robles attributes her presence at last week’s Mass to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe. About a decade ago, she says she was diagnosed with stage III cancer and was on the verge of succumbing to the illness. She rushed to record a CD of her songs and put her fate in the hands of God and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“I put everything — my faith — to them and so here I am,” Robles said.
Many of those attending the Mass were dressed in traditional Mexican attire.
Paola Cruz, 20, a CCRI student who grew up in Mexico, stood in the back of the sanctuary, wearing a colorful dress with images of her heritage.
Cruz said she has been coming to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Masses since she was 8, when her grandmother first brought her.
“Virgen de Guadalupe means a lot to me. I do carry her on my necklace because she has a significant impact in my life,” Cruz said, saying the devotion is an important tradition in her family.
Azade Perin-Monterroso, of St. Patrick’s Church in Providence, said the feast day is significant for her because Our Lady of Guadalupe symbolizes the unity of all Catholics.
“Here we are only one family. This celebration is about celebrating our diversity that makes us stronger and a reminder that when we come together, great things can happen,” Perin-Monterroso said. “Once you walk through those doors — it doesn’t matter where you are coming from. We are all one family. This is not only for some people. This is for everyone.”
The Mass was followed by a celebration in the cathedral basement, with food, singing and traditional Mexican dances.