More than 550 parishioners gathered in the sanctuary of St . Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church Wednesday evening mass as part of the daylong celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The feast began Wednesday with mass at 5 a.m. and reconvened at 6 p.m. for a special processional, Rosary, Mass and reception.
The 2012 celebration attracted 583 celebrants, the largest and most diverse turnout since 2002, when the local church first observed the feast day.
Though the religious holiday is widely observed in Latin America and the Western United States, the whole St. Therese Parish embraces the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a celebrated Roman Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary. The queen of Mexico was once proclaimed Patroness of the Philippines, but that title was later revised by Pope Pius XI in 1935. In 1999, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Virgin Mary as Patroness of the Americas, Empress of Latin America, and Protectress of Unborn Children under the Marian title.
Accounts published in the 1640s tell of a poor peasant, Juan Diego, walking from his village to Mexico City in the early morning of Dec. 9, 1531, to observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as celebrated in the Spanish Empire.
During his journey, Juan Diego saw a vision of a 15- or 16-year-old girl surrounded by light on the slopes of the Hill of Tepeyac.
Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the local language, she asked that a church be built at the site in her honor. From her words, Diego recognized the young girl as the Virgin Mary.
Diego told his story to Spanish Archbishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga, who instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill and ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.
The Virgin told Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Though December was very late in the growing season for flowers, Diego found Castilian roses on the usually barren hilltop. The roses are not native to Mexico. The Virgin Mary arranged the flowers in his peasant tilma cloak.
When Juan Diego opened the cloak before Bishop Zumárraga on Dec. 12, the flowers fell to the floor. In their place was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted on the fabric.
The icon is displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most visited Marian shrines.
The icon is Mexico’s most popular religious and cultural image.