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Saint Mary’s pilgrimage aims to educate about La Virgen de Guadelupe

| Tuesday, September 18, 2018

As the number of Latina students at Saint Mary’s continues to grow, so does the College’s efforts toward incorporating Hispanic culture on campus. Some of these efforts include offering Spanish Masses alongside the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Las Posadas during the Christmas season.

Fr. Stephen Newton, the primary coordinator for a pilgrimage to Chicago to educate students about La Virgen de Guadelupe, or “La Virgen,” said reflecting the demographics of the Catholic Church is important on campus.

“Sixty percent of practicing Catholics now are of Hispanic origin — and that’s only growing — and to not be a part of that community is to not be a part of a lot of what the church is,” Newton said.

Newton emphasized the importance of incorporating Hispanic culture into the life and culture of a Catholic school.

“A lot of the Hispanic students who come to Saint Mary’s are first-generation college students,” he said. “As such, their whole families are really involved in the process, and that culture needs to be integrated into any Catholic college that’s going to be serving this population.”

Campus Ministry’s upcoming pilgrimage to further expose community members to Hispanic culture and educate students on La Virgen — a central figure in Catholicism, particularly in Latin America — will be the first of its kind.

“This pilgrimage was a grant that we applied for to the Holy Cross Peace and Justice fund in order to help reflect on the role of La Virgen de Guadalupe in Spanish culture, both for those who know it and have grown up with it and those who have not,” Newton said.

Sophomore Jackie Rojas said she heard about this event after she went to a conference over the summer discussing the integration of Hispanics into the American Catholic community.

“After coming back from that conference, we were able to have this opportunity to go on a pilgrimage,” Rojas said.

Upon arrival in Chicago, Professor Gilberto Cavazos-Gonzalez from the Chicago Theological Union will speak with students at the National Mexican-American Museum on aspects of La Virgen that go beyond piety.

“We know that Dec. 12 is a great celebration of the feast day, especially in the Mexican culture,” Newton said. “Beyond this piety of La Virgen, what does it have to do with the culture and religion and how might one access it for their whole growth and development in faith?”

After Cavazos-Gonzalez’s lecture on La Virgen, students will tour the museum’s art exhibitions. Following the tour, students will have the opportunity to discuss what they viewed before heading to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. The pilgrimage will conclude by visiting the Pilsen neighborhood, located in Chicago’s Lower West Side, to see more artwork depicting La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Rojas said she hopes to expand her knowledge of La Virgen over the course of the pilgrimage.

“For myself and all of the other students, I hope that we learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe because, personally, I do know a few things about her but I think that Professor Cavozos-Gonzalez will give me a better insight into her role in our culture,” she said.

The pilgrimage is also designed to make members of the Hispanic community at Saint Mary’s feel welcome, Newton said.

“This pilgrimage is hoped to be a way to engage the Hispanic students and get to see us as ‘user-friendly,’” he said. “We want to work with students on what we can do to help them know that this is their place and their faith and culture belongs here as much as any other.”


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