Virgin of Guadalupe celebrated in Pasco

Manuel Soto won't be a 14-year-old freshman at Chiawana High School for an hour Monday.

Instead, he will be Juan Diego, with a woven sombrero on his head, a poncholike cloak covering his chest and a mustache drawn on his face.

As the procession winds its way from Atomic Foods in Pasco to the St. Patrick Catholic Parish church, Saint Juan Diego will humbly kneel to Our Lady of Guadalupe as he did so many years ago.

A four-day celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin Mary, culminates Monday. Members of the congregation will hold an all-night vigil tonight night until 5 a.m. Monday. Then, Las Mainitas, or Little Morning Songs will be sung before the 5:30 a.m. Mass.

A 6 p.m. procession, including the float with Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, will lead the way to the 7 p.m. Mass at St. Patrick, which could be attended by 1,500 people. Participants will recite the rosary.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorates the Virgin Mary's visits to Juan Diego, a simple farmer in what is now Mexico City in 1531. Mary appeared to Diego on to top of Tepeyac Hill and told him to go to the bishop and have a church built where she appeared, said Father Daniel Barnett of St. Patrick Catholic Parish, which includes about 7,500 families.

But the bishop wanted proof that Diego really had seen the mother of God. On Dec. 12, while Diego went to go visit a sick uncle, Mary appeared and told him to go to the top of the hill.

There, Diego found Castilian roses that were growing despite the cold, Barnett said. So he took the roses to the bishop and said, "Here is your miracle."

When he let his cloak drop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on the cloth made of cactus, Barnett said. Mary appeared as a mixed-race woman dressed as an Aztec princess.

Millions of people converted after the miracle. The original cloak can still be seen in Mexico City, Barnett said.

"Historically, it's an amazing event," he said. She appeared as an image of hope during a time of upheaval in the world.

Manuel said Our Lady of Guadalupe gives him hope now. She is someone he can turn to with problems.

It's his third time acting as Diego in the procession.

"It's an honor to do it," Manuel said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is an image of reconciliation, Barnett said. Her appearance just 40 years after explorer Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue started the Mexican race because Aztecs and Spaniards began to intermarry.

And it remains an important message today, Barnett said.

"We are called to bridge the gaps between us," he said.

Monday, at the procession, people can see how Our Lady inspires, said Angela Hernandez of Pasco, a member of the parish council. "You see the faith in people's eyes," she said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe will intercede for those who pray to her, Hernandez said. It is an important time to honor her as Catholics prepare for the Advent season and Christ's birth.

Hernandez invited the community to come see an important part of the Mexican culture and of the Catholic faith.