By Tim Harfmann
With torches in-hand, pilgrims honored Our Lady of Guadalupe as they traveled the road to Christ.
“It’s like setting your eyes on the prize,” said Angel Mendez, a torch runner from St. Leo Church in Corona, Queens.
“It symbolizes the light of Christ. We bring the light of Christ to the world. Sometimes there’s darkness. Sometimes there’s hatred without the love that Christ gives us,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
Before the pilgrimage, there was music and dancing on the December 12 feast day. Bishop DiMarzio celebrated Mass for nearly 2,000 Catholics at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph.
They have a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“She’s the protector of all. She’s the mother for everyone. If you don’t have a mother, she is your mother. So, for me it means everything,” said Mendez.
The tradition dates back to when St. Juan Diego encountered Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in the 1500s.
During the apparitions, the Blessed Mother told him to go to the mountaintop, where roses were in full bloom during winter — a symbol of deep faith.
“We have to be rooted in the faith, and we need be in the truth. And the truth is Jesus Christ,” said Father Jorge Ortiz, the coordinator for the Mexican ministry in the Brooklyn diocese.
Our Lady of Guadalupe led to the conversion of Mexico from Paganism to Christianity.
According to the Brooklyn diocese, there are over 175,000 Mexican-Catholics living in Brooklyn and Queens.
Bishop DiMarzio lit 39 torches after Mass, each one for a parish participating in the annual celebration.
Then, the groups spent hours walking or jogging back to their parishes, where they had another Mass and celebration to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.