• Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

By Dr. Rubén Barrón

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Chino is a vibrant parish with a long history of diverse communities. Its population and celebrations have changed but its core faith beliefs have enabled the community to adapt and flourish. Despite changes throughout the parish’s 120-year history in the Diocese, Father Edmund Gomez, the current pastor, notes that one thing that has remained constant is the community’s dedication to Our Lady of Guadalupe. He adds that the devotion is not just limited to his parish in Chino.

“Every year, St. Margaret Mary’s children make walking pilgrimages to come here (Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Chino), pray, and learn about the Virgen de Guadalupe,” Fr. Gomez said. “Both parishes honor Our Lady all year long. She is the Queen of our valley and our hearts.”

This dedication and faith was affirmed during the parish’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe procession and celebrations.

Martin Correa, Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner of over 20 years, was this year’s coordinator of the various events celebrating the Virgin’s Feast Day. Correa, like Fr. Gomez acknowledged the youth’s great faith and involvement in the parish’s celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“The most important thing is to instill in young people our love for the Church and our beliefs in the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Correa said.

The special emphasis that Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Chino places on involving its youth was evident throughout its four-day celebration. Young people were not only present but very actively engaged in the various activities.

This year’s parish festivities started on Dec. 9 with clergy and lay people participating in the city’s Annual Christmas Parade with the rest of the city’s residents. Parish youth were particularly prominent with a young girl dressed as the Virgin of Guadalupe accompanied by a young Juan Diego, his sick uncle, and the skeptical bishop.

The young girl, dressed radiantly as the Virgin of Guadalupe, sat on a colorful float. “My name is Michelle Ramirez, I’m 14 years old. This part was actually a surprise, but I like it because it motivates me to be more involved in church and just be part of the parish events,” Ramirez said.

Roberto Marroquin Reyes depicted a humble Juan Diego. “I’m age 14, a freshman. I go to Montclair High. I’m doing this since my sister is doing it and I’m here to support her. At the same time, this is part of my religious family. They like to go to this church, and I was baptized in this church,” Reyes said.

Added Alexis Guzman, the parish youth coordinator, “Our Lady of Guadalupe gives us an opportunity to not only connect ourselves with our faith, but with our culture.”

After the parade, the parish opened its doors to the community with bilingual Masses, food, and music. People’s souls were nourished along with their physical needs. All activities were centered around the community’s strong devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Feast Day gave them an opportunity and a forum to express their gratitude and love for the Virgin within the safe and loving confines of their church and community.

The celebrations continued into Dec. 10, with people attending Masses throughout the day. During the 1 pm Mass, a large and prayerful group of about 1,000 people of all ages were present in or near the church getting ready for the traditional procession in the barrio, filling the streets with song and prayer.

Toward the head of the procession were two colorful floats, which Rubi Jacquez was in charge of making. “We did one float of Our Lady of Guadalupe and one with the nativity set,” Jacquez said. Jacquez explained that her vision was to create something authentic.

“Jesus Christ was born in a cave, so we tried to make that,” Jacquez said. “We used natural plants and created a cow, donkey, sheep, and rooster. Of course, we had the three kings, an angel, Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.”

Additionally, many young people helped provide security services during the large processions.

“I was asked by my confirmation teacher to help,” Alyssa Medina said. “He gives us service credit, but it also gets me involved with the church. It’s a big celebration and many youths help with the floats and selling food,” Medina said.

Those who are older in the community and can no longer participate in the procession still go to the church to be a witness. Rosalio Gonzales, a neighbor to the church, came out of his house to watch the procession. “I can’t walk the neighborhood anymore because of my bad knees, but in previous years, I used to accompany the Virgin,” Gonzales said.

Later Sunday evening, the winners of the grand prizes were called. The top three prize winners were: Daniel Portillo, who won the first prize of $3,000, Dianna Medrano who won the second prize of $2,000 and Isabel Chaidez who won the third prize of an eclectic bicycle.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church continued its celebration for the next two days, seamlessly transitioning from an all-night prayer service on Dec. 11 to a midnight Mass celebrated with joyful music provided by a local mariachi. At the break of dawn on the official Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, people gathered on a cold midweek morning for the annual Mañanitas Mass with Mariachi. Immediately after Mass, the community joined together for a free meal of menudo, coffee, and pan dulce. Three additional Masses, to accommodate all schedules, were offered on this final day of the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“The most important thing is the devotion we have to the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Correra said. “From there, come the Masses, the dances, the event of the apparition of the Virgin that the young people do, and the flowers that many people bring to the Virgin. These events have been celebrated for a long time, but Father Ed brought new ideas. He focused us on the most important thing, which is the spirituality of the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

Dr Rubén Barrón is a Catholic spiritual director and freelance writer based in Yorba Linda.