SCRANTON – It has been nearly five centuries since God sent Mary as his messenger – appearing before Blessed Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian – but the importance of that apparition continues to inspire generations.

On Sunday, Dec. 11, hundreds of people filled the Cathedral of Saint Peter to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Cathedral celebration, organized by the parishes of Saint John Neumann and Saint Paul of the Cross in South Scranton, was moved downtown to draw even more people from across the city.

“It was an amazing event. We had a very big crowd come out,” Adriano Torres explained. “If we want to grow this community, it is so important to do events like this.”

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant for the Mass, which was followed by a festival across the street at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

“It is with the deepest gratitude that we thank the bishop for celebrating this Mass with us and for the people of the Cathedral who let us use their wonderful church, ” Rev. Jonathan Kuhar, pastor of the South Scranton parishes said.

The annual Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego on December 9, 10 and 12, 1531 in Tepeyac, near presentday Mexico City. The Blessed Mother’s appearance is believed to have resulted in millions of conversions to Catholicism.

Deysi Fuentes attended the Cathedral Mass and celebration with her family, including several children.

“We have to teach our youth our traditions. We guide them in faith towards God,” she explained. “It is a way to show our children where we come from and our traditions that enrich our countries.”

Fuentes pointed out that a milestone anniversary for Our Lady of Guadalupe is quickly approaching.

“We are nine years away from celebrating the 500th anniversary of the first time she appeared to Juan Diego,” Fuentes said.

While the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is especially important to Hispanics, Father Kuhar reminds everyone that she is the Patroness of the Americas, and we should all celebrate her.

“She is our patroness, all of us – North (America), South (America) and Central America – and it is a wonderful thing that we get to celebrate her all together in Scranton,” he said.

In addition to the Cathedral Mass in Scranton, Bishop Bambera also celebrated Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monday, Dec. 12 at Saint Nicholas Parish in Wilkes-Barre. Prior to the Mass, the faithful spent two hours processing through the streets of the Diamond City with a statute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Parishes in East Stroudsburg, Meshoppen, Jermyn and Hazleton also held Feast Day celebrations.

“At a time when they needed a savior, Mary brought to them the Good News,” Father Kuhar added.