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Our Lady of Guadalupe event is this weekend

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WORTHINGTON — With a melting pot of languages, cultures and traditions in southwest Minnesota, the approaching Christmas season often brings people together in a festive holiday spirit of celebration.

From Lutherans who make lutefisk to Catholic traditions in Our Lady of Guadalupe and Posadas celebrations, if you didn’t grow up in those faiths, what is the significance of such things? And then there’s fruitcake. It’s not tied to any religion, but why does everyone have a distinct “love it” or “hate it” opinion?

Over the next few weeks, the Daily Globe will delve into some of these traditions with hopes of enlightening our readers about the traditions of the friends and neighbors around us.

At St. Mary’s Catholic Church tonight in Worthington, the public is invited to attend an informational program about Our Lady of Guadalupe and why it is celebrated locally. The Rev. Jim Callahan and the Rev. Luis Vargas say this year’s feast to Our Lady of Guadalupe will bring Anglo and Hispanic parishioners together to mark the celebration.

The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe began in Mexico, when her apparition appeared before an Indian man, Juan Diego, in 1535, Vargas explained.

Before Guadalupe’s apparition, Vargas said the Azteca tribe, which offered up human sacrifices to the sun, was struggling.

“For them, the God was the sun. They offered the heart of the people to the sun,” he said. “It was difficult to receive the new religion of Christianity.”

After Guadalupe’s appearance, Vargas said the tribe was more willing to accept Christianity.

“Many people think that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Hispanic feast and they don’t realize that the apparition —yes, it appeared in Mexico — but she is considered the Patroness of the Americas,” Callahan added. “At the time she appeared, there was a lot of division in Mexico between the Spanish and the Indians. This brought unity to the communities.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the Patroness of Social Justice and deemed a unifier between people.

“It’s really important (to note that) because she appeared in Mexico and the picture of Guadalupe became a Mexican symbol, in reality it was a symbol for the whole church, and especially for the church in the Americas,” Callahan said.

Tonight’s program explaining Our Lady of Guadalupe begins at 7 p.m. in the church. It will include discussion about who she is, why Catholics celebrate her and the historical details surrounding her.

“She is the same as the Holy Virgin Mary,” said Vargas. “Some people think it is different, but it is the same.”

While the Our Lady of Guadalupe feast is traditionally marked on Dec. 12, St. Mary’s will host a 6 a.m. Mañanitas or birthday celebration, in which people will gather in the church to sing songs and hymns, and present roses in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The church will then conduct its celebratory feast, complete with a meal, silent auction, cultural presentations and dancing following the 10 a.m. English-speaking Mass on Sunday. A mariachi band will perform during the 10 and 11 a.m. services.

“Because (Our Lady of Guadalupe) is the patroness of the Americas, there will be people representing all different countries and cultures,” Callahan explained. A traditional dance group will also be visiting from Rochester to lead the processional with native dancing.

The celebration is expected to lure thousands of people to the church Sunday. As Callahan said, sometimes they can’t all fit in the church.

“You may have people who aren’t big church-goers, but on Our Lady of Guadalupe, everybody makes an appearance,” he said.

Callahan and Vargas are hopeful the celebration will be inclusive of all local Catholics, and said this is the first year both the Anglos and Hispanics are working together to plan the festival.

“I don’t know why it’s taken so long,” Vargas said. “Now, the Hispanic community is very active and involved in the church.”

In the 20 years St. Mary’s has offered a Hispanic Mass, Vargas said the number of Hispanic parishioners has grown immensely. Nearly 800 Hispanics attend Mass every Sunday. That is in addition to Mass offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons.

“One of the things that we have tried to do is bring the two communities together — to look more at our similarities than our differences,” Callahan said. “This is the right time, people feel, to begin to merge the communities together — to be one community of faith.”

Callahan said bringing the congregation together in celebration is one way the church can overcome issues of racism and discrimination. In the three and a half years since he became a priest at St. Mary’s, he has already seen positive change.

“You have some people that wish Worthington was what it was like 30 years ago,” he said. “The reality is it will never go back to that.”

Following the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the church will move into Posadas, a nine-day novena that begins Dec. 16 and continues up to Christmas.

Posadas follows the story of Joseph and Mary looking for shelter. It’s a time of rest, reflection and prayers. At St. Mary’s, it includes a Dec. 22 celebration with piñatas for the children, food and fruits for all people.

For Vargas, a priest at St. Mary’s for the past year and a half, it’s easy to understand why traditions can be so confusing between people of diverse backgrounds. A native of Colombia, he said he had to learn all about the traditions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Posadas after coming to St. Mary’s.

“For me, it was really difficult,” he said. “I understand why it’s really difficult for the white people to understand the celebrations.”

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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