FORT WAYNE — St. Patrick Parish in Fort Wayne was at capacity with standing room only for the hundreds of Hispanic parishioners and friends who came to Mass on the second Sunday in Advent and to celebrate Our Lady. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was the celebrant.
The thrust of the celebration was to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. Although Dec. 9 this year falls on the Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 9 is also the feast of St. Juan Diego, an indigenous Native American from Mexico who was visited by the Blessed Mother now known as Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531.
December 9 is very special to Bishop Rhoades. On Dec. 9, 2004, he was ordained the bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa.
Colorful flags representing the countries of the American continents marked the entrance procession of the Mass. A larger-than-life framed portrayal of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was incensed by the bishop during Mass, stood near the altar. Aztec and Ecuadorian dancers commanded the aisles, brightly dressed in colorful cultural costumes replete with feathered and jeweled headdresses.
During his homily, which he spoke in Spanish, Bishop Rhoades stressed that Christ not only came for all 2,000 years ago, but comes to us in the present day. He reminded all that Advent is a time for conversion and repentance — like that preached by John the Baptist — adding, “I can not think of a better way to prepare ourselves for Christmas than Confession.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, in which five local priests concelebrated, St. Patrick pastor Father Andrew Thu Pham and Bishop Rhoades gave thanks to all who had participated in the organization of the beautiful Mass. Following resounding applause for Bishop Rhoades as he was recognized for his ordination as bishop, the dancers took to the aisles to complete the Mass celebration.
The congregation processed onto the streets reciting the rosary as they made their way to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and raising their voices in song. The procession, led by Provincial of the Society of the Divine Word Father Thomas Ascheman and Father Thu Pham, formed around a beautifully-carved wooden statue depicting the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego. The statue was borne on a litter by several men with one holding an umbrella over it in the rain.
The statue was brought to Fort Wayne from Texas and donated by the Martinez family as a gift for Bishop Rhoades on his episcopal anniversary. A personalized plaque at the base of the statue reads: “The community of St. Patrick, Fort Wayne, presents this statue to our Bishop Kevin Rhoades. May Our Lady of Guadalupe always protect you with her mantel.”
Dancers braved the elements as the procession reached the cathedral plaza where they performed to rhythmic drum music. Those in procession entered the cathedral with the statue where they sang songs as they awaited the arrival of Bishop Rhoades.
The bishop welcomed the congregation in Spanish to the cathedral, which he called their home, too. The statue was presented to the bishop in the sanctuary of the cathedral where he thanked the congregation for the stunning gift before praying over and blessing the statue with holy water.
Following the blessing all were invited to process back to St. Patrick Church for a fiesta.
Kay Cozad and Joe Romie contributed to this story.
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