LOS ANGELES, California – About 30,000 Catholic faithful walked the streets of Los Angeles in a Sunday morning procession for Our Lady of Guadalupe nine days ahead of her Dec. 12 feast day.
“We give our hearts to the Virgin of Guadalupe and we ask her to always intercede for us, to hear us and pray for us,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said in his homily at the Dec. 3 Mass concluding the procession.
He said the Virgin Mary leads the faithful to the purpose of their journey on earth: “the encounter with her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
“To find God, to find Jesus! This is the beautiful role that Our Mother plays,” Gomez said.
The procession is the oldest religious procession in Los Angeles. It was established 86 years ago by Mexican Catholics who fled persecution by the Mexican government during the Cristero war.
This year’s mile-long procession began at the corner of Cesar Chavez Avenue and Ford Street in East Los Angeles. It featured colorful floats, equestrian groups, mariachi performers and indigenous dancers. Floats were judged and awarded prizes for depicting the procession’s theme, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Encounter with Jesus.”
Catholic school students escorted an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe – an exact digital production of the original image that now hangs in Mexico’s basilica. The reproduction has been blessed and touched to the original image.
Among the participants was Rolando Portillo, a parishioner at Our Lady of Solitude Church in east Los Angeles.
Portillo was given special recognition at the celebration for his support of the community and of an orphanage in Mexico, the archdiocese reports.
“I thank her every day for watching over us, she is the True Mother, a real protector,” he said. “She brought me back to Jesus Christ when I was an addict running the streets 30 years ago.”
The procession ended at East Los Angeles College stadium, where Gomez celebrated Mass.
He said in his homily that Our Lady of Guadalupe “guides us always into the presence of her Son, into the new encounter with Jesus Christ.
“So, today we profess our love for Our Mother. We thank her for her tender love for us – for our children and our families,” Gomez said.
Lectors at Mass included a survivor of the October Las Vegas shooting and a person who had received protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Before the Mass, actors re-enacted the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.
Many parish communities worked together for the procession. Many participants in the procession wore red and green attire – the colors of Mexico’s flag.
As a preparation for the procession, the images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego visited 20 parishes in the Los Angeles archdiocese and the dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino. They visited five detention facilities in the Los Angeles archdiocese and were present for veneration at Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard during the Day of the Dead celebrations.