Parish creates its own danza group to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Dancers from St. Mary Parish in Davenport practice in the parish hall. They will perform for Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations at the parish Dec. 11 and 12.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Alicia Vieyra dreamed of dancers from St. Mary Parish performing “Danza Asunción” (Dance of the Assumption) to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That dream will take life Dec. 11 and 12. Dancers in costume will perform Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in the parish hall and on Dec. 12 (the actual feast day) after the 6 p.m. Mass at St. Mary Church. “All are welcome to enjoy the performances in honor of Our Lady,” Vieyra said.

Catholics of Mexican heritage have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Catholic patroness of the Americas and the unborn. Our Lady is believed to have appeared in December 1531 to a peasant named Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity. Tradition holds that Mary requested construction of a shrine on the spot where she appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico.

When he shared her request with his bishop, the latter demanded a sign. Juan Diego returned to the site where Mary first appeared to him. She asked him to gather a dozen roses in his cloak. He complied. In a second audience with the bishop, Juan Diego opened his cloak, letting the roses fall to the ground. The cloak, which revealed Mary’s image, is now venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Before this year’s upcoming celebration, St. Mary Parish relied on dancers from across the Mississippi River to perform for Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations. While serving at St. Mary’s, Father Guillermo Treviño suggested that the parish could organize its own danza group. “We’d been talking about it for years, but nothing got done. Alicia took the initiative. And with other parishioners, they got things going.”

Vieyra said that about 40 parishioners are participating in the danza group. Among them are 10 boys who will be dressed in the style of Juan Diego and two girls who will be dressed as Aztec Indians. “We’ve been practicing since the first week of October,” Vieyra said.

“For me, it’s an honor to do it because a lot of people have been blessed by Our Lady and a lot of them are dancing as a way to thank her. I would also like to thank Father Chris Young, our pastor, and Father Joseph Sia, our sacramental minister, for their support with this project.”

Some of the children who will be performing are doing so in gratitude for Our Lady’s intercession on behalf of family members. They refer to the performance as “mandas,” which means to send. They are sending a gift of thanks to Our Lady.

Fr. Treviño said he won’t be able to attend the St. Mary performances because he will be involved in celebrations at the parishes where he now serves – St. Patrick in Iowa City and St. Joseph in West Liberty.

“For the people of Mexico, especially, Our Lady of Guadalupe means the world to them. Whether people are faithful or not, they know the Blessed Virgin Mary has always been faithful to them. That gratitude has spread throughout the Americas,” Fr. Treviño said. “So on Dec. 12, we always give her honor.”

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