By Celine Klosterman
COLUMBUS JUNCTION — In 15-degree weather and stinging winds, bundled-up Hispanic Catholics in the Davenport Diocese celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 with outdoor processions, dancing, singing and prayer.
In St. Joseph Church in Columbus Junction, about 30 family members and friends wearing sequined green skirts and emerald head scarves danced to drumbeats for about 20 minutes, recalling a Mayan tradition in which dancing was a form of prayer, Raul Camargo said. The 32-year-old started a dance group last year after having served in a similar troupe in Mexico beginning when he was 16.
He said he was raised in a culture that stresses honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. She appeared in December 1531 to Juan Diego, an Aztec whom she told she wanted a church built on the site of her apparition — Tepeyac Hill. The Catholic Church says the local bishop asked for a sign confirming Juan’s story, so Mary told the peasant to take flowers he gathered in winter to the bishop. After Juan did so on Dec. 12, an image of her draped in a green, yellow-starred shawl appeared on his cloak, which he had gathered the flowers in. Mass conversions of native Mexicans followed.
“She performs miracles. That is why we dance for her,” said Jorge Villagrana. He is a member of the Columbus Junction- and Conesville-based dance troupe, which also was slated to visit Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. James Parish in Washington Dec. 12.
After stopping by the Columbus Junction church, Catholics sang while carrying images of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and a statue surrounded by roses as parishioners processed several blocks to Columbus Community Junior High and Columbus High School for a bilingual Mass. Youths portraying the Blessed Mother and Juan Diego rode in a truck bed filled with desert scenery. Dancers carried mock crossbows to defend themselves against masked men and a boy portraying the devil.
During his homily at Mass, Father Joseph Sia, parochial vicar for the Columbus Junction and Muscatine parishes, told the congregation of about 350 people that Our Lady of Guadalupe’s love and message are universal. She is patroness of all the Americas, he noted.
He likened her apparition in Mexico to apparitions seen by Adele Brise in Wisconsin in 1859. The latter apparitions were recently approved by Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis. “When Our Lady appeared in Wisconsin, she not only appeared for the people there, but for everybody,” Fr. Sia said.
Columbus Junction-area Catholics also honored Our Lady of Guadalupe by offering mañanitas, or songs, early on Dec. 12 and by praying the rosary before her feast day for 46 days. The number of days matches the tally of gold stars on the green mantle she wears in the image that appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak.
Villagrana said the dance group, named after San Judas Tadeo, or St. Jude Thaddaeus, also performs for that saint’s feast day on Oct. 28. The parishioner noted that St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, also works miracles.
Outside of Columbus Junction, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton was among parishes in the diocese that celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. About 200 Catholics attended Spanish Mass the afternoon of Dec. 12, then gathered at the Eagles Club in Clinton for mañanitas, music and a meal, said Sister Jane McCarthy, OSF. She is the parish’s pastoral associate.
At St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty the night of Dec. 11, a mariachi band played and Catholics offered mañanitas, said Father Dennis Martin, pastor. The next day, children and adults dressed in red and blue costumes danced and attended Spanish Mass.
At St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, about 25 costumed children, youths and adults danced from 10-11 p.m. Dec. 11 and at Spanish Mass Dec. 12. Catholics prayed the rosary and a novena, and sang mañanitas, said Petra Morales, who helped coordinate the parish’s festivities.
“It was a beautiful celebration,” she said. Because of poor winter driving conditions Dec. 11, she was surprised by how many people showed up from towns outside Iowa City for the evening. She declined to estimate a number of participants, but said she was impressed by the Catholics’ show of love for the Blessed Mother. “She is very special to us.”