By Olivia Poust
Music, singing and joy radiated through the streets around St. Anthony of Padua Church on Dec. 11, as members of Syracuse’s Hispanic community held an outdoor procession and Spanish Mass to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mass was celebrated by Father Brendan Foley, parochial vicar of Holy Cross Parish in Syracuse.
Rather than being handed a hymnal at the door, members of the congregation were greeted with roses, candles and words of welcome. At the front of the church, a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe—which was a gift to the area’s Spanish-speaking community—was framed against the backdrop of the altar, with flowers and a serape at her feet. She sat upon a flat wooden palanquin that was built by Father Joseph M. O’Connor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Baldwinsville this past week.
The procession began by carrying Mary through the doors of the church, across the parking lot and around the perimeter of the church’s exterior. The congregation trailed excitedly behind the torch and palanquin bearers who led the way alongside Father Foley and Bishop Emeritus Robert J. Cunningham.
Of the decision to take the procession outside, parishioner and music coordinator Ada Hernandez noted that it was important to show the local Syracuse community what St. Anthony’s is all about. As Hernandez hoped, the procession was met with honks and cheers from passing cars.
When the procession returned inside the church, the statue was set to the left of the altar. Parishioners then lined up to place their roses in vases surrounding the statue and their candles along the Communion rail at the front of the shrine.
Having just been ordained in June and recently taking on the Hispanic ministry in the diocese, Father Foley experienced his first Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration with St. Anthony of Padua Church. His message on this feast day echoes the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “She truly is our mother and we have—connected to her and connected to her son—nothing to fear,” said Father Foley. “We don’t need to fear sickness, death, suffering, whatever it might be; we are under her protection, under her mantle.”
As the patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe supplies motherly protection to all and helps people to live without fear, he explained.
“One of the things we rely on her for is her mercy and her intercession to God in our necessities. We have a lot of people who want to come over to the United States. They pray; they do the walking. It’s about the Virgen de Guadalupe to support us, to guide us, to keep us safe,” said Hernandez. “That’s why we are really, really in gratitude—because we’ve got amazing testimonies for people, for families. Because of her drive to get us here safe, their necessities are covered and they are safe. That’s the first thing that we pray about.”
By providing a space for people to come together, worship and share in community without a language barrier, St. Anthony of Padua Church is furthering the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Her message was one that was so transformative that it led to the conversion of thousands, if not millions, of people,” said Father Foley. “Her message was to build the church, literally, but also to build the Church in the larger picture.”
As the only parish in the Diocese of Syracuse to currently offer a weekly Spanish Mass, St. Anthony of Padua Church, with the help of a strong community, is doing just that.
“We’re taking it one step at a time and we’re really just trying to grow our community here. We’ll keep looking long term, but also focus on what we have here,” said Father Foley.