“Que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Que viva San Juan Diego! Que viva Cristo Rey!”Such was the refrain of thousands of Catholic faithful of all ages from across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — including Aztec and Matachines dancers, indigenous drummers, mariachi singers, members of Guadalupanos Unidos, and everyday churchgoers — who came together Dec. 1 for the 82nd annual Procession and Mass to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.The mile-long procession began at 11 a.m. at the corner of Ford Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Avenue, and continued into East Los Angeles College’s stadium in Monterey Park, where the festivities continued with music, singing, a performance by the Latino Theater Company, and Mass with Archbishop José Gomez presiding.“What a blessing to be with all of you today to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Archbishop Gomez said to the crowd during his homily. He recounted a recent trip to Mexico City for a special Guadalupan pilgrimage. While there, he and his fellow participants received a special message from Pope Francis, who reminded them that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a humble Mexican Indian, St. Juan Diego, to “share a message about the Good News of our faith, about God’s love and mercy.”“The gift of Our Lady of Guadalupe was not just for the Mexican people; God chose the Mexican people to be his messengers in bringing the Good News to all the men and women of the world,” he explained. “This is still our mission.”To help fulfill that mission, Archbishop Gomez urged those present to learn to forgive more, to pray more, and to “live like Catholics — like people of God.”“We have to open our hearts and open our lives, just like St. Juan Diego did, and show people the love that we have inside,” he said. “We have to show people the love of God, the beautiful promise of Jesus Christ — that’s what Our Lady of Guadalupe wants from each one of us; that’s what it means to share our faith.”For Adda Pacheco, a long-time member of Guadalupanos Unidos and parishioner at St. Andrew Church, Pasadena, her life-long devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is both spiritual and cultural, deeply rooted in her upbringing in Yucatan, Mexico.“Our traditions, our roots — we brought them here to this country, but she came with us,” said Pacheco of Our Lady of Guadalupe. While individual parishes hold their own Guadalupan celebrations on the official Feast Day, Dec. 12, the yearly procession and Mass is “our main celebration of the year, where all Guadalupanos [from all parishes] can gather together in one place to venerate the Virgin.”“For me, this is a very special day,” said Pacheco, who helps organize the procession and Mass every year. “It’s always such a joy to see so many Guadalupanos, to see their excitement and happiness in celebrating our mother.” At the conclusion of the Mass, dozens of white doves were released into the air and circled the stadium as a mariachi band played “Paloma Blanca” (a Spanish hymn typically sung in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe), accompanied by the voices of thousands of Mass participants sitting in the stands and on the field.Sisters Rosa Goytia and Araceli Ramirez were among the thousands singing along. Goytia, a first-time procession and Mass attendee, described the experience as both emotional and thrilling — in one word, “Wow,” she said with a laugh.“It’s incredible how many people are here who share the same love for Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Goytia. “It’s so encouraging to know we are all united in our love for our virgencita.” She and her sister both found it particularly inspiring to see people from so many different countries who share the same faith tradition.“It doesn’t matter what country we’re from; we all adore la virgen,” Ramirez said. “Today has been such a blessing, giving us all the ideal opportunity to give thanks for each other and for all the blessings God rains down upon us.”This year’s celebration included the event’s first-ever “float” contest, honoring the top three participating parishes that decorated vehicles in keeping with the theme of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The winners included Santa Isabel, Los Angeles, which won $400 for third place; St. Columbkille, Los Angeles, $600 for second place; and St. Marcellinus, City of Commerce, $1,000 for first place. The prize monies are earmarked for technology upgrades/purchases at the winning parishes.The Dec. 1 celebration concluded a month-long pilgrimage of images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego to parishes of the archdiocese. The Guadalupe image — referred to as the Peregrina — is a digital reproduction of the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The special reproduction was a gift to the archdiocese from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1206/guadalupe/{/gallery}