Living Hope Newsletter – April 2013

IMG 1002

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In a neighborhood of two-flats and long-ago shuttered steel mills on Chicago’s southeast side, the Claretians’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Church draws a steady stream of visitors from around the world who come to visit the home of the National Shrine of St. Jude. The Claretians first came to Chicago in 1925, built the National Shrine, and began the St. Jude League in 1929 to foster devotion to the Patron Saint of Hope.

But Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is also home to a thriving parish, which ministers to the Hispanic Catholics who live in the neighborhood. While the National Shrine is more widely known, the church hosts many celebrations and feasts that reflect the culture of the community. Each year, on December 12th, an overflow crowd gathers at the church in the very early hours of the morning for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

IMG 0943

The Feast celebrates the Virgin Mary’s appearance to St. Juan Diego in Mexico. Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego on a hill outside of Mexico City and asked for a church to be built on the spot in her honor. Like her appearances in Lourdes, France, and Fatima, Portugal, Mary provided a sign for St. Juan Diego to convince the local bishop of her request, giving him miraculous roses in the middle of winter and imprinting the now famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe into his cloak.

In the Chicago parish, within the simple splendor of the church—built in 1927 by the Claretians—the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is honored by mariachis, traditional Aztec-style dancing, and heartfelt serenades of the Virgin Mother. The Claretian priest celebrates this special Mass in Spanish and calls for renewed devotion to Our Lady.

When the mariachi singer serenades the image of Our Lady on the altar, elderly women in pews nearby make the sign of the cross. After the Mass, many leave red roses—brought with them to the celebration—at the foot of the altar, creating a sea of flowers expressing their deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. For others, it’s simply a chance to kneel in silent prayer, a moment to reflect on the compassion of the Patron Saint of Mexico and the Patroness of the Americas.

IMG 1087

The Virgin of Guadalupe continues to play a special role in evangelization throughout Central and South America and for many Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. who maintain the devotion to her. “The appearance of the Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego was the true beginning of Catholicism in Mexico,” explained Fr. Carl Quebedeaux, C.M.F., pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Spain brought the religion into the country, but few believed until the Virgin appeared.”

Much has changed in south Chicago since the National Shrine of St. Jude was built here nearly 90 years ago, yet each new generation in this neighborhood gathers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church every year on December 12th, committed to nourishing their vision of a healthy community, rich in tradition and spirituality.

CMF In Kupang

Our Journey to Indonesia

When Claretian seminarian Brother Ray Smith received his missionary assignment to serve in Indonesia, amid his excitement he felt pangs of hesitation— understandably so. Bro. Ray had finished his studies but was still in formation when U.S. Provincial Superior Fr. Rosendo Urrabazo, C.M.F., asked what he would like to do leading up to his vows and ordination.

“I told him three things,” Bro. Ray says. “I could go back to school if the Claretians need certain expertise in an area. I could teach scripture in a foreign seminary. Or, if there is something else that the Claretians need, I’d be open to it, because as a missionary it’s not about choosing where you go. You’re a missionary because you’re sent.

“Before this assignment, short of theology class where we studied human rights in Asia, I did not know that much about Indonesia,” he continues. Bro. Ray’s openness to be sent where the need is greatest is one of the remarkable traits that make the Claretians so effective in their missionary work. Indonesia, a vast country of nearly 18,000 islands, is inhabited by about 237 million people, most of whom are Islamic, giving Indonesia the largest Muslim population in the world.

The Claretians’ Indonesian mission is relatively young, starting just 25 years ago. Yet today, this mission is training more Claretian seminarians than any other Claretian province worldwide.

The magnetism of religious life in Indonesia is fortunate, because the need of the people is great. Although many natural resources are found in abundance in Indonesia, poverty is a defining aspect of life for the people. Amid the Muslim majority, the Christian population in Indonesia has grown rapidly, as Filipino immigrants settled there many years ago and brought their Catholic faith with them. The Claretians are dedicated to serving the poor in Indonesia and to growing the Church throughout the country. Bro. Ray’s ministry will include teaching English to the many Indonesian seminarians studying for religious life.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of comments from my fellow Claretian brothers and students, saying ‘I want to do what you’re doing,’ ” Bro. Ray says. “They’re very excited for me. Which is special, since this is really what the Claretians are all about.”

Bro. Ray thanks the St. Jude League community for their support of the Claretians’ mission. “I know that I simply couldn’t be here without them,” he says. “Those who give of their own resources, their treasure, are the only way that anyone can be a missionary. Their prayer and support enables me, and all of us, to go out and be of service. For that we are grateful.”