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Celebrations mark feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Masses, dancing and music highlighted celebrations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 11-12 at parishes across the archdiocese.

The celebrations mark the appearance of Mary to St. Juan Diego in 1531 near present day Mexico City. It is credited with helping evangelize Mexico and the rest of the Americas.

Our Lady of Guadalupe-St. Agnes Parish in Omaha kicked off more than 24 hours of activities Dec. 11 with a 7 p.m. vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop George J. Lucas that drew more than 650 people to St. Agnes Church. A reception was held after the Mass.

Activities then moved to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which featured white cloth behind the altar in the shape of "M" and "A" for Ave Maria, framed by 12 stars for the 12 tribes of Israel. Richard Mendoza, liturgist at Our Lady of Guadalupe, said the 12 stars also represented the world and Mary as its mother.

The 11 p.m. Mass at the church was followed by early morning celebrations known as serenades that included a band and mariachi group and people praying, singing and reciting the rosary. Parish groups provided coffee, hot chocolate and bread for nourishment.

"Mañanitas," morning songs marking the dawn of Mary's appearance, started at 5 a.m. followed by Mass and breakfast for Assumption-Guadalupe School students at 8:45 a.m. More music, dancing and prayer followed a 6 p.m. Mass Dec. 12.

At St. Michael Church in South Sioux City, parishioners brought flowers all day Dec. 11 to help decorate, and a vigil Mass drew about 500 people, as did a 5 a.m. Mass Dec. 12, said associate pastor Father Anthony Espinosa.

About 500 people attended a vigil Mass at St. Augustine Church in Schuyler and a special program that followed in the town's hall. At that program, a parish women's group, the Guadalupana's, served a meal and dance groups performed in traditional costumes. The community ended the evening by praying the rosary in church at midnight and singing the "Mañanitas" (morning) songs.

Traditional music by parish groups was played throughout the evening, said Father Carl Zoucha, pastor of Divine Mercy Parish.

And at St. Peter Church in Omaha, about 700 people attended a vigil Mass and traditional celebration of Mañanitas.

Father Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter, said Our Lady of Guadalupe is the "Empress of all the Americas," but her appearance brought special graces to the people of Mexico and Latin America.

"I think she saw in them kindred souls and identified with their humility," Father Cook said. "After all, from what we believe, Mary herself was a simple, unassuming woman.

"For the people, they are not celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe out of pride or nationalism but out of tremendous love, the devotion of children honoring their mother."

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