On Tuesday, December 13th, 2011, I went to 6:30 P.M. mass at St. Patrick’s in Whitewater, WI. It was during the Sacrament of Penance, El Rito de Reconciliacion II. As you enter St. Patrick’s, you cannot help but notice the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe. On December 12th, the Hispanic community of Whitewater celebrated La Fiesta de La Virgen de Guadalupe. Two statues of a darker skinned version of Mary rested on the altar. Below their feet were dozens of flowers, cactus, and candles. Behind them was a poster of Juan Diego gazing up at the Virgin of Guadalupe. On the opposite side of the poster was a picture of the Basilica of Guadalupe.

As the priests entered the church, I looked down at a pamphlet I used to follow along with the service. On one side, the words were typed in English, while on the other side, the same words were translated into Spanish. Songs and hymns followed the same, with one set of words being in English while the other set were in Spanish. Church definitely was a lot different from when I was a little kid.

The influence of the Hispanic community and culture was evident that night I went to mass. From the colorful offerings to Guadalupe to the bilingual service, the Catholic Church has made great efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community and adjust to meet their needs.

But I could not help but wonder when and where did this adjustment come about? And was it the Hispanic communities who initially asked for this change or did the Catholic Church decide on their own to adapt their masses for Spanish speakers?

In class we discussed the Catholic community within Mexico. We discussed how Juan Diego was visited by the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12th, 1531. She was of darker skin than the Spanish invaders; she was just like Juan Diego. And as time went on, since the majority of Catholics were Mexicans, the syncretism of the Virgin of Guadalupe came to pass. The Catholic Church recognized Juan Diego as a saint and the Virgin of Guadalupe was celebrated every 12th of December.

A question I would have loved to discuss with the priests of St. Patrick’s is what their viewpoints on the Virgin of Guadalupe are and how
they view her festival? I understand that Guadalupe may come from the old
mother goddess Tonantzin from Tepeyac, where the Virgin of Guadalupe was said
to have appeared to Juan Diego. Does this cultural significance bother non
Hispanic Catholics?

In an attempt to answer my own question, I would assume that
a majority of Catholics do not find this offensive or bothersome at all. After
mass, I walked up to the altar to admire the many offerings in remembrance and
recognition of Guadalupe. An elderly woman approached me and began to describe with
happy enthusiasm all the different events that occurred that past Sunday at St.
Patrick’s for the celebration of Guadalupe. Her genuine admiration for both the
celebration and culture were evident in her features and tone. She made it seem
like an event no one should ever miss for the world. I guess I know where I’ll
be next December 12th.