By: Dominique Johnson
How do you share your faith and cultural traditions when you are thousands of miles away from home?
For over 20 years, Gloria Bodron has helped the Hispanic community at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Juneau share their tradition of celebrating the Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe.
The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated December 12th, marking the day in which the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma of St. Juan Diego, when presented to the bishop of Mexico. The apparition helped spread the Gospel throughout Mexico, and within nine years of Our Lady’s appearance around nine million Natives converted to Catholicism. The tilma from 1531 is still perfectly intact and many pilgrims flock to see it every year at the basilica near Mexico City.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico and her feast day is a Holy Day of Obligation in the country. For those from Mexico and Latin America the feast day is an important day to celebrate.
At St. Paul’s in Juneau, the Hispanic community celebrates an evening Mass on the feast day, followed by a play, which retells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill.
“We have a play, so our children can learn how it is celebrated in Mexico,” Bodron said.
Planning and preparation for the celebration begins a month in advance Bodron explained. In the middle of November Bodron and others in the community meet and discuss who will be in the upcoming play. They also begin cooking to feed those who attend the Mass and play.
“We make about 500 tamales,” she said. The tamales are served with atole, a traditional Mexican drink, and bunuelos, a Mexican sweet bread.
Though reenactments aren’t necessarily part of the tradition in Mexico, Bordon finds retelling the story an important part of sharing culture when living far away from Mexico, “We want our children to know the story, so they know it if they are asked about Our Lady of Guadalupe.” She added that most of the young people in the community are willing to be a part of the celebration.
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is also a chance for evangelization as many Hispanic people know the importance of the celebration.
“Some move up here and decide to go to a different church for different reasons, but on the 12th of December everybody comes to St. Paul’s,” Bordon said.
She said that on December 12th all are welcome to attend Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and watch the play. The celebration starts at 7 PM at St. Paul’s.
Bodron, who has visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe multiple times, shared that it is always a powerful experience, seeing those who have traveled from all over the world and are moved by the miracle. She hopes that by sharing the story others will also be moved by the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.