Hispanic Heritage Month (by Annie Bullock, PhD, Theology Instructor)

Last week, St. Michael’s faculty and students celebrated the start of Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in a specially designed bilingual prayer service led by the Senior Leadership Team with help from some other dedicated students and faculty. The service was part of a campus ministry initiative intended to enrich liturgical life on campus by fostering engagement with the Catholic faith in all its diversity and beauty. 

The purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month is to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Hispanic people to American culture and so the decision to focus on Our Lady of Guadalupe was an easy one (even though her actual feast day falls on December 12).
As Mr. Aragones shared with us that morning: “To the Church, the Hispanic presence offers a revitalization of Catholic imagination. As the world turns to the vanilla flavors of secularism and the drab of non-belief, Hispanic Catholics offer the spice and dynamic color of a countercultural way of being in the world. We witness a faith that embraces traditions, stories, rituals, expressions, and symbolism.”

The theme of the service was prophetic voices, so we began with a reading from Jeremiah (in Spanish and English), where God calls him to be a prophet to the nations: “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them” (Jer. 1.7). 

Students reflected on the meaning of that scripture in light of Our Lady of Guadalupe, herself a kind of prophetic voice for the Americas, and then experienced the story of San Juan Diego, who encountered the beautiful, brown-skinned woman on Tepeyec Hill. At the close of our service, we invited the entire student body to follow us in procession around the school following an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe decorated with roses and accompanied by a guest musician. 

We will continue to use occasional prayer services to expose students to the richness of the Catholic faith over the course of this year. Students may see or experience things that are brand new to them or seem strange, but that’s okay. I knew very little about devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe before 2019 when I was invited to sing at a service called Las Mañanitas before an early morning Mass on her feast day. I stood there with my back to the massive congregation facing an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe feeling scared, and small. I sang in English because that’s my language. Then I sat and listened to everyone else pour out their hearts in Spanish. 

I felt like an outsider, but in reality, I was a welcome guest. And I think ultimately that’s how I should feel, at least some of the time. Each of us ought to feel small, out of place, and a little unsure in our spiritual lives now and then. If that isn’t happening, we may be missing out on opportunities to meet God in a more profound way. It’s how Mary must have felt when she said yes to being Jesus’s mother, and her humble yes still shows us the way. I hope that this year our students will say yes to seeing God in our own lives, every day and in all things.

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