Monday, December 12, 2011

Prepostulancy and Nuestra Señora: A Story Of Unlikeliness

In case you didn't already know, I'm serving my prepostulancy in perhaps the most unlikely place - Macon, Georgia. A small Southern city in the heart of Georgia. A city with a few hundred churches (no joke), thick Southern accents, musician pride, a humid climate, and a cherry blossom festival. But also a poor city, with the average salary being not even $27,500 and a city where not even half of the young people graduate from high school.

The Sisters here live among boarded-up abandoned houses in the African-American neighborhood. Our church was historically "the black Catholic church" and more or less remains so today. Yet there is another minority group that has emerged here at St Peter Claver....the Hispanics. As a prepostulant, I work part-time in the Hispanic ministry office. I teach Confirmation to Hispanic youth and attend the Spanish Mass. The Spanish Mass is always full and with lots of kids.

Sunday, we celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sure, we used the Third Sunday of Advent readings but you know the whole thing revolved around the next day's feast.....Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Both kids and adults showed up in typical Mexican clothing, with some boys dressed as St Juan Diego (so cute!). There was a procession around the street, most of which I missed because I was trying to get on my traditional Bolivian dress (after all, she's patroness of the Americas, right?)

 The Mass, which was packed, was absolutely beautiful, celebrated by Father Chris Ortega, a young priest serving in Savannah (check out his blog here!) and it was followed by a large reception in the school gym, complete with traditional Mexican food and dance.

Even though I lived in Latin America for two years, I never witnessed a Guadalupe celebration like this before. (Bolivians tend to go for Our Lady of Copacabana over Guadalupe.) It was beautiful.

As the celebration went on, I reflected on the devotion Mexicans have to this image, this story of the Virgin Mary. The real connection comes from Our Lady of Guadalupe being theirs. While the tapestry was certainly a miracle, the real miracle in my opinion was that Our Lady appeared where no one expected and to someone no one expected. She appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Indian, and the words out of her mouth were not Spanish, the language of the priests of the day, but rather Nahuatl, the indigenous language.

The Virgin Mary appeared in the most unlikely place....and that is why we celebrate.
In a way, it fits that Our Lady of Guadalupe's feast happens a few weeks before Christmas because it is then, during Christmas, that we celebrate God coming to us in the most unlikely way.

I certainly didn't expect to be sent to Georgia for prepostulancy and I'm in perhaps the most unlikely place...(after all, who expects to do their formation in a city where Catholics are a very small minority?)....but isn't that where we find faith the most? Just go ask Juan Diego.

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