Latin American popular piety can inspire Sydney in new ways to “show its neighbours the good news,” said Bishop Richard Umbers at a Spanish-language Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As children processed down the aisle of St Charles Borromeo Church in Ryde on 12 December, they placed roses at the feet of Our Lady as an ensemble played traditional mariachi music.
“Desde el Cielo una hermosa mañana, La Guadalupana,” the band sung in honour of the occasion. “From Heaven on a beautiful morning, La Guadalupana.”
Mexican, Peruvian, Columbian, Spanish and Chilean communities in Sydney, amongst others, came together to praise their shared spiritual mother.
Also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, the feast marks the Marian apparitions to St Juan Diego in the 16th century on the hill of Tepeyac, Mexico City.
St Juan received roses from Mary to be placed in his cloak after being asked by the local bishop for evidence of her apparition.
In the bishop’s presence they fell from the cloak to reveal the now-iconic image of Our Lady.
Juan Diego was canonised in 2002 by St John Paul II, and is the first indigenous American saint.
In his homily, Bishop Umbers said the events at Gudalupe are a continuing sign for all to trust in the Lord and recognise Our Lady’s role in revealing his glory.
“She was a sign of great evangelisation because she spoke to the people in their own culture and introduced Christianity to them in the symbols she was adorned with,” he said.
“It shows the true role she plays in the work of salvation with her son.”
The communities of South America have brought their distinctive popular piety with them as they have spread across the globe, and Sydney is no different.
“We like to share in that happiness and celebration with everyone,” said Roberto Zegarra, a Peruvian migrant.
Zegarra is a member of Bonds of Marian Love, a lay community of South Americans started almost 25 years ago in Columbia on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
José Rodrigo Jaramillo Fernandez founded the community after being questioned on Catholic doctrine regarding Mary by Protestants.
After answering their questions, he invited them to pray the rosary and began the first prayer group.
Now in over 20 countries, the community in Sydney are dedicated to the consecration of Jesus through Mary, with events like Spanish Vigils, retreat weekends and Marian feast celebrations.
“We always want to go back to our roots and have Mass in Spanish,” Roberto added.
“There’s something felt deep inside when we have the celebration in our mother tongue.”
Fellow member Vanessa Valencia, from Mexico, said sharing cultural exhibitions of faith have seen their community grow over the past 12 months, not only in numbers but also in devotion.
“People come forward and they want to be part of this militant army that Mary wants us to form. We can see a change in souls,” she said.
“This is the good news, and we just want to share that faith. She is our Queen of the entire continent [of South America] and so celebrating her now in this country keeps the tradition alive for many people.”
Parishioners gathered after Mass to share in traditional food and song, which Bishop Umbers said was a way to share the Gospel.
“Our Lady belongs not only to Mexico, but to the whole world. There are so many ways of showing love to our mother and this is one of them, and it’s still very real almost 500 years on,” he said.