SAN DIEGO — For more than 50 years, the San Diego Diocese’s Hispanic Commission has organized a colorful, joyous procession and Mass to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This year’s event will be held on Sunday, Dec. 5, in a new location, San Diego’s North Park neighborhood. The procession begins at 11 a.m. at Bird Park, at 28th Street and Redwood, and ends at St. Augustine High School, at 3266 Nutmeg St. Bishop Robert McElroy will celebrate a bilingual Mass there at 1 p.m., accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano.
The procession will include theme cars, Aztec dancers, musical groups, and charros on horseback — “all of those things that are so popular in our Mexican towns,” said Luis Enrique Barajas, president of the commission.
After the Mass, the diocese will pay tribute to the late Auxiliary Bishop Gilberto Chávez, who died in March of 2020, as the pandemic was taking hold.
COVID-19 restrictions led to the cancellation of last year’s procession, with the diocese only able to celebrate a Mass. This year, organizers are eager to resume what had grown to become one the largest annual celebrations in the diocese.
Many groups from one end of San Diego County to the other joyously participate in the procession, carrying their brightly colored banners. Folkloric dancers of all ages also participate, marching to lively drum music.
“Some groups begin to line up at 7 a.m. in the morning,” said Guadalupe “Lupita” Alvarado, the president of the Confederación Guadalupana, the diocese’s partner in the event.
“We invite all parishes, schools, movimientos, apostolates, Latino groups, and other multicultural commissions to join us in this event, which we’re preparing with dedication and love,” Barajas said. “Our Mother is not only for Latinos, but for all races, cultures and languages.”
In fact, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Americas and of Filipino Catholics.
“We represent diverse cultures and traditions. But, at the end of the day, we are united by the love for la Virgen de Guadalupe. It’s very important for us to be close to her, to recognize that she is the Blessed Mother of God and intercedes for us with Him in all of our needs,” said Eduardo Alvarado, Lupita’s husband, one of the organizers.
After the procession, the faithful will convene in the gym of St. Augustine High, around 12:30 p.m. Just before the Mass starts at 1 p.m., each participating group will process into the building, hoisting their banner to share their faith.
Community to Say Goodbye
After the Mass, the organizers will pay tribute to the late Auxiliary Bishop Chávez, who pioneered a ministry that recognized and celebrated Latinos’ native culture and spirituality in the diocese and across the nation. He died on March 15, 2020, as pandemic restrictions were being implemented, forcing his funeral Mass to be closed to the public.
“He was one of the first to support us, especially in the guadalupana celebrations,” Barajas said, noting that Bishop Chávez was the founder of the Confederación.
When he was installed as auxiliary bishop in 1974, only five parishes offered Masses in Spanish, he said. During his 33-year tenure in that post, the number of participating parishes grew to 47.
“Now, there are Masses in Spanish virtually everywhere.”
In addition to the tribute, organizers will host a fiesta in the school’s garden, complete with mariachi music and traditional food shared by the participating groups. For its part, the Confederación Guadalupana will offer tamales and “champurrado,” a sweet beverage that’s traditional for the time of year.
More information about the Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession and Mass on Dec. 5 is available by phoning (858) 490-8306 or visiting sdcatholic.org/guadalupe2021.