St. Mary’s celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe featured culture and heritage

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2024

On Monday, Dec. 11, a vibrant procession coursed through historic downtown Natchez, featuring the revered Our Lady of Guadalupe with a group of devoted Guadalupeans present for the celebration. The culminating event was a Mass presided over by Father Aaron Williams, accompanied by Father Charles Yaklin, IVE, who delivered the homily.

This marked the second instance in which Hispanic Catholics from the Natchez-Vidalia area received the support of Father Williams, of the Basilica of St. Mary and Father Charles, a monk hailing from St. Joseph Monastery in Natchez.

Father Charles, who arrived in Natchez two years ago, has been offering Mass in Spanish to the local Catholic community.

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In his Spanish homily, he emphasized the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, stating that her call is for everyone to draw near to Jesus.

He highlighted, “She asked to build a temple, not for her glory, not for us to praise her, because she is surrounded by thousands of angels, but the message of her heart is for us to be close to her son, through the Eucharist.”

The successful organization of the 12-day celebration, including Rosaries and traditional dances, is attributed to the dedicated efforts of numerous volunteers, notably Lupe Valencia, of Mexican heritage. Valencia led a group of dancers adorned in ponchos featuring the image of Guadalupe, conchas (shells) and Tambor (drum), performing various routines in honor of the Virgin Mary.

A separate dance ensemble from Guerrero, Mexico, showcased the tradition of Los Chinelos, a cultural heritage from Morelos, a region in Mexico.

Dressed in colorful attire, the group depicted an elderly figure with a long beard, carrying the image of Guadalupe on the back of the cape.

They danced joyously to regional music, adding a dynamic element to the festivities.

Valencia received valuable assistance from a dedicated team, including Paola Siles from Nicaragua, Guillermina Vega and Montserrat Gonzalez, a mother-daughter duo from Mexico residing in Vidalia. Rosendo Gonzales and Antonio Ortiz carried the image of Our Lady in the procession, while Bettina Coffey provided translation services for Father Williams at the Family Life Center.

The celebration concluded with a heartfelt blessing, lively dances and a shared feast in honor of Our Lady.

This article published originally in the Mississippi Catholic newspaper.