Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe

Fr. Henry Nguyen, SCJ, vocation director for the US Province, shares his experience of being a part of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at our OLG parish in Houston where prayer and celebration fill the parish grounds and surrounding streets for two days. Fr. Henry writes:

During my first year in formation I was able to experience a “Las Mañanitas” in Chicago, which is an event that starts at dawn on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was my first taste of a feast day of Our Lady and I loved the energy, the people, the music, and the beautiful clothing.

Midnight Mass on the plaza

This week (December 11-12), eight years later, I had the opportunity to experience the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a priest, in Houston. I am glad that I arrived Sunday night as I was not prepared for what was to come. When I arrived, I got a sneak peek at the church and saw the beautiful decorations of roses and lights that illuminated the mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Little did I know that the flowers that were in the church were only the beginning. For the next two days, four Masses were to be celebrated on Monday evening, and seven Masses on Tuesday.

The OLG school community had a Mass for the anticipation of the feast on Monday. Eighth graders reenacted of the apparition of Our Lady to Juan Diego, and they did a phenomenal job. I found it to be so touching, especially the two that played Mary and Juan Diego, they really stuck to their roles. I truly believe that other students were able to learn a lot about the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Of the 11 masses, one was in English; the rest were in Spanish; I presided at one of them. It reminded me of my time in Ecuador, where I spent part of my pastoral year in 2021. In my broken and rusty Spanish I tried to offer my best, to confirm and remind those gathered what the feast day is about. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a message of hope! After the Spanish-language Mass I did blessings.

Giving blessings throughout the day showed me the devotion the people here have for our mother Mary. In particular, one boy stood out to me. His mother brought him up for a blessing; she told me he had cancer. As I looked down at this little boy, I noticed a hospital bracelet on him, and my heart just sank. As I blessed him with holy water, his face was so radiant and filled with joy, it gave me hope. His mother was thankful that I gave him a blessing. But little did she know, his visit was a blessing to me.

Fr. Henry behind the OLG altar

This ongoing tradition to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is filled with prayer, songs, and dances. Here at OLG, at different Masses and in the plaza, Matachines groups danced with their vibrant traditional outfits. Their instruments brought up the energy, along with other dance groups. Many young boys were dressed as Juan Diego. Thousands of bouquets of flowers were offered for our Lady that filled the Church and different shrines and images of Our Lady of Guadalupe around the parish. Alongside these were thousands of candles lit up inside the church and outside at the shrine. Blessings were given between Masses and at the end of the day hundreds came each hour for these blessings.

It was such a beautiful witness to see thousands of people on our church grounds, to fill up the plaza, and to be, simply in the moment. The celebration extended out to the streets as many vendors of food and flower spots filled up Navigation Blvd. Everywhere I saw tacos and ‎Champurrado (a Mexican hot chocolate drink), and it made me truly hungry, even after midnight as the streets were still crowded at 1:00 a.m. The final Mass of the celebration was at 8 p.m. There was a full house; we had to close the door due to capacity. A long line of people waited outside to visit with our Lady and to receive a blessing.

Every experience that I have had so far at OLG has been a great experience; it is the reason why I keep coming back. The staff of the parish and school, the parishioners –– they are so welcoming. They really embody their motto of “Nuestra Casa es Su Casa”.

View photos and videos from the feast day celebrations on the Facebook page of Our Lady of Guadalupe.