Bishop Straling, who had served as Executive Secretary for the Diocesan Synod, made the decision that the Patroness of the Diocese would be Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is December 12.
Reflecting on his early decision to designate Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Diocesan Patroness, Bishop Straling recalled, “a big question before the Diocese at the time was our ministry to Hispanics. In asking Our Blessed Lady to intercede to the Lord for the graces and wisdom to meet this need we address her under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
During the 1979 celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Archbishop Jean Jadot, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States appointed by Pope St. John Paul II, joined Bishop Straling to celebrate a special Mass at the Swing Auditorium at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino.
The next year, Bishop Straling was the principal celebrant at an Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass attended by 4,000 people in Jackson Park located in Indio.
Later that day. Bishop Gilbert Chavez, Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of San Diego, joined Bishop Straling and 1,500 people at Raincross Square in Riverside.
In his homily, Bishop Chavez reflected on the unifying spirit of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day.
During both the Indio and Riverside celebrations, Bishop Straling commissioned members of the Escuela de Ministerios who had completed three years of lay ministry formation. The Escuela de Ministerios was a formation program in the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis for Hispanics.
In 1981, the Diocese honored the 450th Anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin to Juan Diego in Tepeyac, Mexico with an Anniversary Mass at the Municipal Auditorium in Riverside.
Bishop Straling welcomed people to the Mass by stating: “ We are still a young Diocese, so it is my prayer that this celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe may grow each year, so that everyone may know that she is our Patroness.”
Bishop Straling used a long-stemmed rose as the aspergillum during the sprinkling with holy water.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Ontario renovated its parish church that year by adding two stain glass windows depicting red roses in honor of the 450th Anniversary.
In 1982, the Diocesan celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe was held at St. Joseph Parish in Barstow with 1,000 people attending an outdoor Mass. This event closed the 450th Anniversary year that included an eight-day pilgrimage to Mexico and an Evangelization Congress in Riverside.
Bishop Straling invited the entire Diocese to celebrate the Feast Day of their Patroness: “as a public manifestation of our deep desire to follow Juan Diego’s footsteps with a message of love and salvation.”
The Diocesan celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1983 returned to the Coachella Valley. Rev. Juan Connor, CSC, the Director of the Valley Missionary Program in Coachella, joined Bishop Straling to distribute the Christian Youth Service Awards to several young adults from the Low Desert Vicariate.
Ministries represented included the Pathfinder Retreat, La Familia Youth Group of Cathedral City, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Youth Group, United Catholic Kids Of Penn West, and the Mexican-American Scholarship Fund.
Each December 12, the Diocese of San Bernardino celebrates the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, asking her to guide and protect the Catholic community in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Peter Bradley is Archvist in the Diocese of San Bernardino.