Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 30, 2000
A parish of many celebrations
People from 16 nations find home in Spanish parish
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
When parishioners come together for Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, they celebrate one faith with one language, but 16 different cultures.
Representing countries from Mexico to Chile to Spain, the parish is a blend of Latin American nationalities. The mix is challenging to accommodate sometimes, but offers an enriching environment for visitors and parishioners alike.
Manuel Hernandez emigrated from the Dominican Republic more than 22 years ago. He has known Paola Guasp, 21, since she was knee high. He remembers her dancing and still raves about her talents. Guasp remembers celebrating Quinceanera with Hernandez's family.
"It was so beautiful," said the Canadian born Guasp, whose parents are Chilean and Spanish. "I had never seen anything like it before."
Though they share the same language, with a slight difference in dialect here and there, Guasp and Hernandez have often been in awe of each other's culture. Guasp speaks fondly of the traditional Quinceanera, a huge fanfare that celebrates a young girl's 15th birthday, a sort of a coming-of-age spectacular.
"It's like she is becoming a young woman," said Hernandez. "It's a very big deal in the Dominican Republic."
In December, Nicaraguan families in the parish have Griteria, which means to shout, where they shout the name of Jesus in glory. The Mexicans celebrate Serenata Dec. 11, the day before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where they invite fellow parishioners to dedicate a song, dance, drama or other forms of art to the Virgin Mary.
Celebrations are abundant at Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is always a feast or special festival hosted by a particular culture in the parish.
But on Oct. 22 , parishioners gathered for their 25th anniversary with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Collins. The week prior they held an anniversary dinner and "we were 162 people and we knew everybody," said Sister Carmen Monreal, the parish's administrator. "It is a very close church."
Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe is unique, say parishioners. There is a pride in the faith and culture, which is reflected in the vibrancy of the choir. Guasp tries to explain how most church choirs are traditional in their singing. But in her church, the choir has rhythm.
"When a priest visits our church he sits and listens to the choir and does this." She gently rocks her head back and forth to one side as if following a song beat. "People really get into the music."
Since its inception, the community of Our Lady of Guadalupe has celebrated its Spanish Masses first at Sacred Heart Church, then at St. Pius. Although the parishes were welcoming, they were not a true home. Not until 1992, when the parish bought an old Baptist church west of Kingsway Mall and called it their own.
Having their own church allows parishioners to gather in the downstairs hall after Mass and mingle until 3:30 p.m., which has become a Sunday ritual. Once a month, a family makes a dish customary to their homeland and shares it with the rest of the parish.
The parish has grown to about 300 families, but for the past several years, it has not had a resident pastor. Presently Father Drago Gveric is serving as Sunday vicar and Father Augusto Garcia from Colombia has been assisting.
The lack of a pastor has meant that Monreal has been responsible for most of the administration. Though they miss not having a pastor, Monreal and the rest of the parish have not slowed down.
"It's a very active parish," Monreal said. "There are many different cultures, but we are united in faith. It's very enriching to be here."