An ecumenical celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe


By Barb Arland-Fye

Our Lady of Guadalupe is depicted in a modern painting by Stephen Whatley, an expressionist artist based in London. The appearance of Mary to St. Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531 is said to have resulted in millions of conversions to Catholicism. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, is Dec. 12.

Some might call it an unusual coupling: a college with Swedish-Lutheran roots is hosting its first Tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Catholic patroness for the Americas. But organizers of the Dec. 12 event at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., say it’s an opportunity to celebrate diversity on campus while honoring an icon revered by Hispanic Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the Quad-City region.
Latinos Unidos, a student group fostering understanding and appreciation for Hispanic culture, has planned a free event featuring music, a shrine and a performance re-creating the story of Our Lady’s appearance in December 1531 to a peasant named Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico.Our Lady is said to have left her image on Juan Diego’s “tilma,” or cloak, which now hangs in the Mexico City basilica named for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As part of Augustana College’s tribute, which begins at 6 p.m. in Centennial Hall, members of the community will wear traditional Mexican attire and students will be accompanied by Mariachi Luna y Sol during musical performances.

Flyers publicizing the tribute have been distributed to parishes throughout the Quad-City region, including those in the Diocese of Davenport. “I love the idea,” said Moises Cavazos, youth minister at St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass. “I encourage people to go and to look at this event. It’ll show that Catholics come in different colors and different nationalities, but we’re the same Church.” He hopes to encourage members of his youth group to attend, as well as other members of parishes in the Davenport Diocese.


“Our Lady of Guadalupe has inspired the people of Mexico for over 400 years,” said Greg Aguilar, director of Augustana College’s Office of Multicultural Services, which is co-sponsoring the Tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Many of Mexico’s most popular historical figures have led independence and revolutionary movements for the people under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

Aguilar, a Catholic, said he’s studied Our Lady of Guadalupe all of his life and appreciates how her appearance brought hope to so many. “It’s a part of my Catholic faith and my Mexican culture and I wanted the campus as well as the Quad-City community as a whole to understand and appreciate this important figure in the Hispanic community,” he said. “We’ve been promoting  ‘Discover Difference’ on campus. We want people to understand and appreciate different cultures, faiths and religions.”

Kai Swanson, executive assistant to Augustana College President Steven Bahls, said the earliest Latino graduates of Augustana College studied there in the 1920s and ‘30s. This is a reflection of the fact that the Mexican American community in the Quad-Cities had a huge influx in the 20th century.

He tells the story of a Latino student whose Catholic pastor originally resisted the young man’s desire to attend Augustana because it wasn’t a Catholic school. But the future student’s mother and other ladies of the parish informed the pastor he would have to start cooking for himself and do his own laundry. The priest relented and the young man enrolled at Augustana.

A neighborhood not far from campus once was home to Swedish immigrants, many of whose children learned English as a second language at Ericsson Elementary School in Moline. During the 20th century the neighborhood transformed from Swedish to Spanish-speaking immigrants, whose children are learning English as a second language at the same school. “Ericsson is a place where our students who are bilingual go to help out and volunteer,” Swanson said.

“I think there’s a lot of consonance between the Swedish immigrants who arrived more than 120 years ago and the immigrants today from across all of Latin America, particularly Mexico. So I think it’s a very natural fit. Greg is a passionate communicator of the story of Our Lady and why she is the particular patroness of this continent. I think it’s a story our students would benefit from knowing,” Swanson added.

What:  A Tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe

When:  6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12

Where: Centennial Hall, Augustana College, 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island, Ill.

Admission: Free

Contact: Greg Aguilar at (309) 794-8275;

Celebrations in the Davenport Diocese

Hispanic Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this weekend. Here are some events planned at various parishes:

• Clinton, Prince of Peace Parish: Mass in Spanish Dec. 11 at 3 p.m., followed by a meal at the Eagles’ Club.

• Columbus Junction, St. Joseph Parish: Procession from downtown to the church Dec. 11 at 9 a.m., followed by Spanish Mass at 10:30 a.m.

• Davenport, St. Mary Parish: Prayers, songs and dancers Dec. 11 at 6 a.m. at the church, followed by breakfast. A mini-bazaar will take place afterward until 11 a.m. Mass, which will include special songs for the Virgin Mary.

• Fort Madison, Holy Family Parish: Mass Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church, followed by a meal and fellowship at Roling Hall. There will be a piñata for children.

• Iowa City, St. Patrick Parish: Dancers dance during the recessional at 10 a.m. Mass and later at noon Mass Dec. 11. A potluck follows. Dance begins again at 10 p.m., followed by the rosary and the end of a novena at 11 p.m. Mañanitas at midnight and Spanish Mass at 7 p.m. Dec. 12.

• Muscatine, Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish: Noon Mass Dec. 11 at St. Mathias Church, followed by a gathering from 2-9 p.m. at Fiesta Hall. There will be food, music, piñatas and a dance group. On Dec. 12 at 8:30 a.m. in St. Mathias Church, Catholics will sing mañanitas to the Virgin Mary.

• Ottumwa, St. Mary of the Visitation Parish: Mass Dec. 11 at 11 a.m., followed by a potluck. Las mañanitas will start at 11 p.m. and finish Dec.  12 at 1 a.m.

• Washington, St. James Parish: Mass at 12:15 p.m. Dec. 11, followed by a celebration in Tobin Hall.

According to tradition, the story of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe began when the Virgin Mary appeared in December 1531 to Juan Diego, an Aztec. She told him she wanted a church built on the site of her apparition — Tepeyac Hill. The local bishop asked for a sign confirming Juan Diego’s story, so Mary told the peasant to take flowers he gathered in winter to the bishop. After Juan Diego did so on Dec. 12, an image of her draped in a green, yellow-starred shawl appeared on his cloak, which he had gathered the flowers in. Mass conversions of native Mexicans followed.

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