Our Lady of Guadalupe | St. Ann Church, Morganza 

By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator 

Nestled in the tiny enclave of Morganza on the western outreaches of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, St. Ann Church might be diminutive in size but rich in spirit.  

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A dance troupe from the Hispanic Apostolate performed during a celebration and dinner following Mass at St. Ann Church in Morganza. Nearly 200 people, gathered at the Dec. 9 evening Mass to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Photos by Richard Meek

 

That spirit, especially among the Hispanic population, came alive during a celebration commemorating the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Nearly 200 people, the majority of whom were Hispanic, gathered for the Dec. 9 Mass and dinner, which were celebrated three days before the actual Dec. 12 feast day.  

A Mass kicked off the evening followed by a reception featuring a Hispanic Apostolate dance troupe dressed in bright attire performing a traditional dance.  

“This is a very important celebration for the Hispanic community,” said parishioner Cruz Gonzales, adding that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most important saint in her culture.  

She also expressed her appreciation to St. Ann pastor Father Brent Maher, who celebrated the Mass in Spanish, accompanied by a choir that was also from the Hispanic Apostolate.  

For the Hispanic community, the Mass was also an opportunity to express their appreciation to Father Maher, who, since becoming pastor has expanded the number of Spanish Masses from once a month to twice, Sundays beginning at 5:30 p.m.    

Father Maher was also the first St. Ann pastor to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Previously, Father Elicer Montanez Grimaldos would come from Baton Rouge to celebrate, but he was reassigned to his native Colombia by his order in 2016. 

When Father Grimaldos was transferred, Father Maher said he reached out to the Hispanic community to discuss their needs.   

“I wanted them to know they are our family, they are our parishioners,” Father Maher said. “They need to feel like they are a part of the community.”  

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The young people  danced up to the image and statue of Our Lady Guadalupe and knelt in reverence.

 

He said it was important not only to continue the Guadalupe Mass celebration, but to expand the available Spanish Masses as well.  

“The Hispanic community is very connected to their faith,” Father Maher said, adding he has been impressed by their deep love of the Catholic Church.  

“We are allowing them to teach us,” he said.   

During his homily, Father Maher told the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and how she appeared to St. Juan Diego when he was walking to his parish, asking that he build a church for her. Father Maher noted that St. Juan went to the bishop who asked for a sign to prove the request was coming from a heavenly lady.  

Father Maher said St. Juan, after learning his uncle was gravely ill, was walking to the church to contact his parish priest but took an alternative route, hoping to avoid Our Lady. But she startled the future saint by appearing and asking him, “Am I not here for you? Am I not your mother?”  

St. Juan Diego returned to the bishop, who was convinced the lady was heavenly when he saw the imprint of Our Lady of Guadalupe on St. Juan’s tilma.  

Father Maher noted that many people are similar to St. Juan, originally resisting Gods plans because “we don’t have time, we have work to do.”  

“The Lord is not tricked, the Lord is not fooled,” he said. “He watches over us, and even in the darkest moments of our lives he is working for our good.”  

He encouraged people to emulate St. Juan, to be “willing to humble ourselves and act in faith. The Lord is greater than all of these things we may have planned.”  

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The majority of the 200 people attending Mass were from the Hispanic community. St. Ann has approximately 300 Hispanic parishioners.

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St. Ann pastor Father Brent Maher celebrated the Mass in Spanish, and delivered his homily in Spanish and English.

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The youth group posed for photos following their performance.