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Tradition of prayer to go on

John Rieping/Madera Tribune File Photo Folklorico dancers perform for an audience during the 2015 Guadalupena Festival. This year’s event is set to begin at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 3 at St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St.


In 1931, Rev. C. Tranchese reportedly preached a multi-day mission at St. Joachim Church for local Italians. But “unwilling to disappoint his friends” he made sure to offer an earlier service Dec. 4 for Mexican faithful.

Five years before, the Guadalupana Society of Madera had formed, and its members were devoted to celebrating an alleged miracle by the mother of Jesus on Dec. 12, 1531, that arguably helped convert Mexico to Christianity.

“Church fiesta draws crowds,” reported the Tribune about the first of nine days of evening prayer services (a “novena”) that would be followed on Dec. 13, 1931, by a day-late celebration of the miracle’s fourth centenary in the then-downtown wooden church beside Griffin Hall.

That local tradition continues this year with a novena of prayer Dec. 3-11 at St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St. Each day, the rosary will be recited at 6:30 p.m. with Mass celebrated by Rev. John Shearer at 7 p.m., with the exception of a 6 p.m. rosary and 6:30 p.m. Mass on Dec. 8.

On Dec. 12, a procession starting at 3:15 a.m. will journey from Millview Elementary School, 1609 Clinton Ave., to the church, and will be followed by singing of “Las Mananitas,” a Mass, and a free hot breakfast in Holy Spouses Hall, 320 N. I St.

The public is welcome to attend.

All the festivities mark the day when a 57-year-old Chichimeca farmer and weaver, Juan Diego, came before a skeptical Catholic archbishop, Juan de Zumarraga, who had earlier asked for proof of the native’s claims to have spoken in the Aztec language of Nahuatl with a woman who claimed to be the virgin “mother of the very true deity” Jesus.

On that winter’s day, Juan Diego carried unseasonable rose blooms in the fold of his “tilma” (cloak). He claimed the woman had told him to gather and present them as evidence. But when he emptied his tilma, an image of the woman was on its surface and showed no signs of being painted, dyed, or woven into it.

“God is first. God almighty is Jesus Christ,” said society president Leticia Rodriguez. But for those of Mexican descent, the image “represents our religious culture in Mexico… It’s the miracle that changed a pagan country that did not believe in God. It is the miracle that transformed our whole nation.”

The woman allegedly identified herself to Juan Diego as the “virgin of Guadalupe.” So the image and alleged apparition of Mary are both referred to under that title, and the society is named accordingly. But the Spanish word “Guadalupe” may have been confused with a similarly pronounced Nahuatl word, “coatlaxopeuh,” which means “one who crushed the serpent’s head.” The phrase may refer to Genesis 3:15, which is interpreted by Christians as the first prophecy of a messiah in the Bible, or may be a repudiation of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl (“Feathered Serpent”). Society secretary Gloria Medina said she believes it is the Guadalupana Society’s job to bring people to the messiah, Jesus, as Mary did.

For event information, call society president Leticia Rodriguez at 647-5201 or organizer Carlos Rodriguez at 647-5200.

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