Hundreds of worshipers from parishes throughout the county came together to take part in Our Lady of Guadalupe processions last weekend, celebrating the Virgin Mary.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe is an image of the Virgin Mary that appeared to Juan Diego in the sixteenth century. She appeared there and asked to have a church built in her name where she appeared. She promised to protect the people, and to hear their cries, and to feel for their sorrows,” said Fr. Matthew Blank, Parochial Administrator for the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
Blank led the procession in Colusa on Saturday, which saw about 250 worshipers participate.
“We consider Our Lady of Guadalupe, the blessed Virgin Mary in heaven, as someone who is guiding and protecting in the Americas. But it comes out, particularly, of Mexico,” Blank said. “That’s why so many Mexicans have such a special belief and devotion to her.
The Catholic Church chose December 12 to mark the feast of Guadalupe on the day she appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant, in 1531, on a hillside. The procession in Colusa took place on Saturday instead, and both Williams and Arbuckle had their processions on Sunday.
“All Catholics around world celebrate this day, especially in Mexico. The big cities, in particular, put it together big time. Colusa doesn’t allow us to do it during the week due to schools and traffic, so the city keeps us to the weekend,” said Larry Diaz, the long-time organizer for the Colusa procession. “It has been a free event here for past 20 years — just an opportunity for us to get together and celebrate. Some years it has grown, some years it has stayed the same. We used to have around 100 to 150 people, and I think it was over 200 this year.”
Volunteer Alex Morales said that the event was growing to become more of a big, traditional holiday event in California.
“It is growing every year. We have more people involved every year, with different ethnic groups involved,” Morales said.
Each of the processions in the county included music, children dressed as angels and in colorful Aztec attire, and a depiction of the Virgin’s appearance to Juan Diego. At the Williams procession, Maxwell resident Gustavo Rangel had the honor of depicting Juan Diego.
“It does have to do with Mexican culture, but also with the Catholic religion. It’s a big deal to pretty much anybody and everybody who either has a strong faith or is just proud of their culture,” Rangel said. “It’s a blessing to be part of it… Everything about it — it’s almost overwhelming to a point. With all of the hard work that goes into preparing for the event, it’s a year-round process… It’s definitely something to be proud of. I know my mom is proud as heck. Her eyes and her face yesterday, just seeing me dressed up and being a part of it, she was proud as heck, as was I.”
Each of the processions concluded at the respective Catholic churches for the three Colusa County communities, where worshipers gathered for a rosary or Mass and enjoyed food and drinks after.
“The Catholic Church has a tradition of doing processions, which means we make a walk beginning in one place and ending in a holy place. When we do this procession… (it follows the) tradition of when someone goes on a pilgrimage, goes on a journey to get to a holy place. We are making our journey to the holy place, which is the church,” Blank said.
The celebration continued into the actual feast day of Guadalupe, when each church gathered to sing mañanitas at 5 AM before a 6 AM morning Mass.■