IMPERIAL (SNR) - Things have really blossomed for the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities at St. Patrick Parish in Imperial. It’s now a multi-day celebration filled with opportunities to pray, rejoice, feast, evangelize, sing and even dance.
Father Bernard Lorenz, pastor of the parish, said that when he came to Saint Patrick Parish seven years ago, there was just a Mass each Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Little by little more was added to it until it has become a celebration attended by hundreds of people.
This year, the schedule starts Saturday, Dec. 7 at a Mass at 7 p.m., followed by a family rosary.
The next day, parishioners will gather for a noon procession led by La Matachines (“The Sword Dancers) – traditional Indian dancers. The dance tells the story of the Central American Indians’ conversion to Christianity.
This is one of the newer parts of the celebration. Father Lorenz said that about three years ago, the parish hired dancers from Colorado. Their contribution was such a hit, the Hispanic families at St. Patrick Parish took it upon themselves to learn the dance steps and make costumes.
“This will be our third year doing it ourselves,” Father Lorenz said.
The music-filled procession will journey about eight blocks through Imperial, ending at the parish where Mass will begin at 1 p.m.
“We might even have horses in the procession this year,” Father Lorenz divulged.
He assured everyone that the traditional dance is “very respectful” and mindful of the great blessing God bestowed on Central America with the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Immediately after Mass, there will be a performance depicting St. Juan Diego’s encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary. A big meal will follow, appropriate for feasting.
On the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Wednesday, Dec. 11, Father Lorenz will have a 6:20 p.m. Mass for children. He will travel to Wallace to celebrate a 9 p.m. Mass for Spanish-speaking families in that area.
Then on the big day, families will gather at church for Las Mañanitas, the traditional morning prayers set to music.
“Despierta, mi bien, despierta/Mira que ya amaneció,” one verse begins. “Awaken, my dear, awaken/And see that the day has dawned….”
The celebration will end Sunday, Dec. 15 when Father Lorenz celebrates Mass in Spanish at Sacred Heart Parish in McCook at 2:30 p.m. A potluck meal will follow.
Father Lorenz said the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a significant part of the Advent season at his parish. There are about 50 Hispanic households in Imperial who attend Mass regularly at St. Patrick. Some of the other Hispanic families in town will come to these events even if they go to other churches, simply because Our Lady of Guadalupe is such a big part of their culture.
“It really focuses on the Mother of God,” he explained. “It’s also an opportunity for me to catechize those who aren’t practicing [the faith] and talk to them about Advent, the Immaculate Conception, and being active members of the Body of Christ.”
The procession in particular is also a tool for evangelization. Father Lorenz related a story about a neighbor who heard the drums and singing one year and stepped out of his house to find out what was going on. Father Lorenz paused for a moment to explain.
“This is so good, you should go down Main Street,” the man exclaimed in response.
Father Lorenz laughed at the memory. “Well, we haven’t gotten to Main Street yet. We probably need 100 more people before we could do that.”
He invited everybody in the area to come and partake of all or some of the events. While many of the songs and prayers are in Spanish, Father Lorenz assured those who don’t speak that language that there is much said in English as well.
“Everybody’s welcome,” he said.