By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
An early celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day Sunday brought out a bigger crowd than last year as the Hispanic community remembered a beloved story from church history.
This year’s temperatures for the event were a shocking contrast to last year’s bitter cold.
The weather likely brought out more people than last year, said Fr. Bernard Lorenz, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church, who spent the afternoon remembering, too.
This was the fifth year for an expanded ceremony in Imperial remembering the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mexico in 1531.
Starting at 12 noon, families began a procession from East 5th St., that traveled several blocks, ending at St. Patrick Church for Mass.
Leading the procession depicting Mary and Juan Diego were Chase County fourth and fifth graders Gisselle Acuna and Julian Juarez. Families walking behind joined Fr. Lorenz in praying the rosary.
Following Mass, families gathered at the parish hall, where children re-enacted the story of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531.
According to tradition, Juan Diego, a simple peasant, saw a vision of a young woman on Dec. 9, 1531, while he was on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City, Mexico.
He told the local Catholic bishop of his experience, who, somewhat of an unbeliever initially, asked for some proof.
Three days later, according to legend, the image of Mary appeared miraculously on Juan Diego’s cloak as he showed it to the bishop. Today, the cloak is displayed in the Basilica of Guadalupe near one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.
Local residents also entertained with dancing as they depicted Los Matachines, whose dancing tells the story of Central American Aztec Indians’ conversion to Christianity as well as their thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and other gifts.
Also dancing were 10 youths who also entertained at Chase County Schools for a Cinco de Mayo celebration earlier this year.
A traditional meal concluded the day’s events, at which 200 were served.
Dec. 9 marked the feast day of St. Juan Diego, while Dec. 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.