By LIBBY CLUETT
Yearly the congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes’ Guadalupe Society parades along West Hubbard Street, honoring Dec. 12, 1531, when the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian on his way to mass.
“Here in Mineral Wells, the Guadalupe Society was founded in December 1960. The first Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Society was officiated by Father Nagel with only six members,” said Society President Dora Calderon.
Today the daughters and granddaughters, as well as friends, of deceased and elderly society members have undertaken their roles in this tradition, according to Calderon. She said the church has approximately 23 active members participating in the Guadalupe Society.
Before Sunday’s church service church members flocked to join the society’s special procession marking Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day. The morning procession included children and adults dancing in colorful costumes of Aztec concheros and matachines and Mi Ranchito mariachis from Fort Worth. Leading the procession was a float with children dressed as angels, Anjelica Jones portraying the Virgin Mary, who appeared to Diego centuries ago, and Evaristo Infunte, as Juan Diego kneeling before her.
The historic event is significant in the Catholic Church. Diego and his family, baptized Christians in 1525, had grown up under Aztec religious practices. When Diego was 13 he might have witnessed an Aztec ceremony dedicating a new temple, in which 80,000 men were said to have been sacrificed over a period of four days and four nights. In 1520, Hernando Cortes outlawed human sacrifice. His actions of cleansing the temples sparked a war with the Aztecs, and by 1521 Cortez had conquered Mexico City.
Shortly after, Franciscan missionaries began evangelizing the Indian people and met success with converts like Diego and his family members.
“Our Blessed Lady appeared to Juan Diego … while on his way to attend mass on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City on Dec. 9, 1531,” Calderon explained. The Virgin Mary told Diego of her wish for a temple to be built on the hill, “to bear witness to her love, her compassion and her protection. She sent him to Bishop Juan de Zumárraga in Mexico City to request her great desire.”