Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 19, 2005
Our Lady of Guadalupe honoured
Joyfilled Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help offered prayers for the infirm, the vulnerable
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Twenty-two years ago, Rafael Cortes travelled to Mexico City from his home in Colombia at the invitation of his family who were on a pilgrimage. He was not a devout Christian when he arrived, but everything changed before he returned home.
"My family was part of a charismatic group participating in a prayer vigil," said Cortes, who moved to Sherwood Park seven years ago.
"We were in the Virgin Mother's basilica praying for the Holy Spirit to go to everyone. I didn't feel anything at the time, but it was the moment I started to follow God."
Along with his wife Lucero Vargas and their son Camilo, Cortes joined about 250 others Dec. 12 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sherwood Park who attended the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas.
Archbishop Thomas Collins celebrated the Mass.
Juan Diego chosen
The feast commemorates Mary's appearance in 1531 to Juan Diego who was walking down a hill on his way to Mass. She also appeared before Diego's uncle who was dying of a fever - and cured him.
Pilgrimages have been made to the site of Diego's visitation ever since. A shrine and a church were built on-site and in 1904, it became a basilica.
Cortes was astonished by tales of Mary's grace.
"We trust in the Lord and the Virgin of Guadalupe," he said. "We believe what she teaches us. We are to help hungry people. Her grace is meant to be the discipleship for everyone."
Vargas' mother passed away recently. She finds comfort knowing her mother is in heaven with Mary.
"It is important to be here tonight because Our Lady of Guadalupe is our mother. I feel my own mother is with her," she said.
During the service, prayers were offered for the vulnerable, the infirm and those suffering from serious illness.
The archbishop asked that all the Americas be blessed at a time when euthanasia and assisted suicides are threatening our society. Her message is that of telling us in our hearts to do what Jesus tells us, he said.
"Mary received her call and responded, becoming someone who is identified as the most important creature in history," he said. "We are all called to worship God and to the practical service of others."
Christy Bulman heeded her call. The 20-year-old has dedicated her life to helping the elderly.
"Our Lady of Guadalupe has a lot of importance in today's society," Bulman said. "It is an important feast day for the Church to remind us to continue to pray for Mary's intercession into the problems in today's society."
Bulman lives in Smoky Lake. She was visiting friends in Edmonton when told about the celebration at OLPH. She works for the Aspen Health Region, tending to the needs of seniors in their own homes and in senior centres.
"Sometimes we lose sight that Christ called on us to live with grace at all times, especially as we near death," she said. "It is highly beneficial to pray to Mary during those times because she can help us more than we might realize."
Collins mentioned his spiritual mentor, Bishop Paul Reding, and Pope John Paul II as two people who died with grace and dignity.
"On this feast day, we celebrate the visitation of Our Lady to our part of the world - the Americas," he said. "She came to Juan Diego, at first a person with no great importance. He was weak and vulnerable. Juan heeded her visitation that he might be strengthened in his struggles."
Collins called Mary "the model of what it means to be Christian - to care about those most vulnerable."
Father Oscar Monroy, pastor of St. Peter's Parish in Villeneuve, has long been devoted to the Grace of Mary. He is pleased to see others in the Americas are coming to know her and accept her themselves.
"I remember as a child we had two churches in Guatemala City and on this day, there were great celebrations to the Virgin Mary," Monroy said. "Two years ago, there was a missionary congress for all the Americas. The patron was the Virgin of Guadalupe. We prayed to her. Devotion to her is spreading."
Collins said life is but a brief journey toward heaven.
"We pray to Holy Mary to forgive us sinners now and at the hour of our death, for we are all moving to the great moment when we are called to the home of our Heavenly Father," he said.
"We take the grace from our Blessed Mother as we journey to that home."