By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
Southwestern Indiana’s Catholic community celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, Dec. 11-12 at St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville and Our Lady of Hope Parish in Washington.
St. Benedict Cathedral hosted the Dec. 11 diocesan bilingual Mass for Our Lady’s Dec. 12 feast day. The next day, Our Lady of Hope celebrated with a bilingual Mass, and a reception and meal following.
The Evansville dinner and reception were cancelled after Vanderburgh County went into the COVID-19 code red as announced Dec. 8 by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Bishop Joseph M. Siegel led the diocesan celebration Dec. 11. He concelebrated Mass at the cathedral and blessed a framed painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe that has come to Evansville from Mexico.
In comments at the end of Mass, Director of Hispanic Ministry Bertha Melendres thanked the owners of Mexican restaurants across the diocese who contributed toward the painting and its frame. Melendres also thanked Father Martin Estrada, parochial vicar of Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville, and his family were instrumental in securing the painting for the diocese.
She thanked Father Crispine Adongo, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Dale, and the parish community for providing the choir for the Evansville Mass. She also thanks young people from across the diocese who were servers at the Mass.
December 11 celebration
Traditional dancers performed before Mass began, and Bishop Siegel opened the Mass by blessing the new painting.
Bishop Siegel began his homily by saying what a joy it was to join with Catholics from across the area for the celebration. He said that Mary is the mother who loves us, asking nothing for herself – all that she asks for us is for Jesus.
The bishop asked that, like St. Juan Diego, we might carry the message that, even today, Jesus is in our midst. He concluded by noting that, through our Baptism, we are called to bring the hope of Our Lady to everyone who needs it.
As attendees left the sanctuary following Mass, ushers distributed long-stemmed roses that had been placed with the painting and blessed by Bishop Siegel. Melendres asked that they accept the roses as signs of Our Lady’s love for us and use them to spread the hope Bishop Siegel talked about.
December 12 celebration
Father Juan Martinez, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Washington, celebrated the Dec. 12 Mass at Our Lady of Hope. Pastor Father Paul Ferguson concelebrated, and Deacon Dennis Hilderbrand assisted.
A mariachi band traveled from Indianapolis to provide the music for Mass. The band also performed at the reception following Mass, which was held in the Washington Catholic Middle School cafeteria.
In his homily, Father Juan reflected on the day’s second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Phil. 4:4-7). St. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Father Juan said the reading is God’s call to us to bring joy wherever we go.
He noted that we all have gone through a lot in the past two years and, as a result, it may be difficult to see joy. He said that during Advent and throughout the year, the Church calls us to the joy of Christ, which is always with us regardless of the trials we face.
He said the joy is rooted in our faith – in our belief that God is with us always. He used Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus’ mother, as a perfect example. He recounted the Annunciation, when Mary answered the angel by saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Father Juan said that joy in our lives will come from acknowledging that, even though we don’t know how life is going to go, we are here to do God’s will in our lives.”
Following Mass, almost everyone who attended processed with a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe from Our Lady of Hope Church to the middle-school cafeteria for the reception.