By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
In December of 1531 the Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, appeared to an indigenous convert named Juan Diego and began the most important event in the evangelization of the New World.
The history of this transformative event as featured in the movie “Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message,” served as a focal point for parish pro-life representatives who gathered Aug. 10 in the Chancery to discuss pro-life ministries in the Diocese, as well as the upcoming festivities planned in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patronness of the un-born and the pro-life movement.
“Our goal here is to get to know you, to share ideas, to spread the message. We want to start to spread the message of what we’re doing throughout all of the Diocese,” said Josue Arriola, diocesan director of Evangelization and Family Life, which sponsored the event.
Some 50 representatives in attendance discussed the film’s implications for the pro-life movement. Sharing details of the story, the group offered insights they garnered from the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the story of Juan Diego.
“How do we see this connected to pro-life?” Arriola asked of the parish representatives.
As one response, those ties between Our Lady of Guadalupe and the pro-life movement addressed by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, were shared.
In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage, indicating that she is not the Goddess, but rather the one who bears and at the same time worships the one true God. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an image of hope because she carries a God of love and life.
In addition, when Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, she addressed him as “Juanito,” signifying the weakest or smallest member of the family, and as “Son,” speaking of herself as both his “Mother” and the “Mother of the One, True living God.”
“This is why we are here, why we invited you all here tonight. We wanted to show we are not alone. We are here together. Our Mother is with us. We know the power of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Arriola said.
He outlined past diocesan initiatives to honor and celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, including a series of traveling torch lightings, or “Las Antorchas Guadalupanas,” that ran from October to the beginning of December last year and culminated in a multicultural – and multi-county – pilgrimage celebration to the St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.
This year, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., plans to bless the torches in November during a pilgrimage to the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., before they begin their travels around the Diocese.
Those in attendance shared ideas on how to work together within the Diocese to spread the pro-life and Our Lady of Guadalupe messages.
“People are hungry for her. They need their mother,” said Jennifer Sidone, a parishioner in St. Raphael-Holy Angels, Hamilton.
In regards to their continued work within the pro-life movement, many offered words of encouragement as they continue to fight for the unborn.
“When we regain respect for the unborn, we regain respect for all life,” said Larry York, a parishioner in Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Maple Shade. “We need to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Patty Staley of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, added, “We have to do our work. We have to pray, and we can’t lose these souls.”
“We are all working together for the same mission,” Arriola assured the crowd.
Coming together and working together in the Diocese of Trenton is something all agreed was necessary.
“Getting people together isn’t easy. I think it’s wonderful. It encourages all of us,” York said. “We have to preserve and be patient. We do important work. We all need each other to succeed.”