PHOENIX (CNS) — The streets of downtown Phoenix came alive with a spectacle of swirling colors and vibrant faith as hundreds of Catholics gathered for the annual “Honor Your Mother” event that celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Diocese of Phoenix.
The echo of drums, maracas and even tubas and trumpets resounded through the streets as dozens of Matachine dance troupes in colorful costumes marched Dec. 2 from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church to the plaza in front of the Phoenix Diocese’s pastoral center.
Georgia Gonzalez of St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear stood behind a table heaped with rosaries, prayer booklets and holy cards.
The “Honor Your Mother” celebration “really shows how many young people are involved in the church,” Gonzalez told The Catholic Sun, the diocesan newspaper. “It bowls me over and it really gives me a lot of joy to experience this.”
Ruby Lodono was with around 50 fellow Catholics from St. Gregory Parish. Holding a foil-wrapped burrito, she considered why the annual event is so popular. “It brings our community together,” she said. “It’s the love for the Virgin of Guadalupe that motivates us.” As for the burrito, she said, “I didn’t even ask for it. Someone just offered it to me.”
Angel Esparza of St. Anne Parish in Gilbert was there with his daughter Daniela, 10, and son Luis, 17. Daniela, dressed in an elaborate costume, has been dancing in the procession every year since kindergarten.
“Sometimes it takes a long time to dance, but it’s fun,” Daniela said. “It’s nice to see a whole bunch of young people participating in the church,” Luis added. “It’s really exciting to see that take place and that they care about the church.”
Sam McClelland of St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Scottsdale just happened to be downtown and stumbled upon the festivities, catching a glimpse of dancers from his parish.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is Dec. 12, appeared in Mexico during the time of the Reformation in Europe, he said, “and she appeared to her children. It’s inspiring knowing that she’s active in history — she converts people. She’s the one who converted me.”
Adiela Bustamente of Queen of Peace Parish in Mesa said she comes every year to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe. “I feel a lot of happiness and joy in uniting myself with the bishop. We are one church and one body to honor Our Lady. It thrills me,” Bustamante said.
Again and again, participants spoke of the joy they felt at being there.
“As a Mexican, it’s something that we carry in our blood, in our bones, because she is the Queen of the Americas,” Bustamante said. “The Virgin liberates us and through Juan Diego, an Indian, she gives us that dignity, that we are not second-class people, we are first-class people — one people.”
Tears rolling down her cheeks, she added: “The bishop always tells us with this celebration that we have dignity, we are part of things.”
That’s a point Phoenix Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares hammered home in his homily at the bilingual Mass that followed the two-hour procession.
When Jesus came into the world 2,000 years ago, the Jewish people were the chosen ones, Bishop Nevares said, and they “rejected the poor, the sick, the lepers, the lame, the prostitutes and sinners … Jesus came to remind us of God’s holy will that we are all children of God the Father.”
The love of God extends to everyone, Bishop Nevares said. “All those rejected are welcome in the reign of God.” When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico in 1531, she did not entrust her message to the learned or wealthy. Instead, she chose a humble indigenous peasant with a tender heart.
The bishop challenged those in attendance to “fight hard” to help those on the margins like St. Juan Diego, especially the young people known as Dreamers — those who were brought to the United States illegally as infants or young children.
“Immigration law in this country is broken,” Bishop Nevares said. Acknowledging that each nation has the right to control its borders, he pointed out that “people who want to enter legally have to wait 15 or more years.”
He encouraged the crowd to mail pre-printed postcards made available at the event to U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, urging them to support the youth who have been protected by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
President Donald Trump announced the Obama-era program will end in March but has urged Congress to pass a measure to preserve it before then. The proposed DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and others in the country without documents.
“The law is unjust and causes much suffering,” Bishop Nevares said. “It’s time to defend the human rights of our loved ones.”