By Lester Gonzales
Umatuna Si Yu’os
Every year Agana Cathedral-Basilica parishioner Melinda Burke takes part in the annual procession honoring Santa Marian Kamalen. However, there was one year she could not attend due to a surgery that she had to undergo off island.
“It was 12 years ago, around this time I had surgery and I was in the mainland. I felt sad that I wasn’t on Guam for the procession,” she said.
Since her surgery, Burke, who is also a lector for the Cathedral-Basilica parish, has made it a point to take part in the annual procession every year.
“The procession is inspirational and important for me,” she said. “Seeing the different groups and schools, we are here to celebrate the glory of the Catholic Church.”
Gathered together as one, united in Jesus Christ, several thousand faithful from parishes, schools, and different church laity groups throughout Guam assembled at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna on Thursday, Dec. 8 to honor and offer prayers to the Blessed Mother and our patroness, Our Lady of Camarin, lovingly known to her people as Santa Marian Kamalen.
Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, the newly appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Agana joined the local celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The statue of Santa Marian Kamalen is revered by many on Guam. The radiant image of Our Lady is more than 300 years old. She resides atop her niche in the sanctuary of the Cathedral-Basilica, the mother church on Guam. On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 of each year, the statue of our lady is brought down for the solemn procession.
Danny Cercado, a Eucharistic Minister from Santa Barbara parish in Dededo, was among those present for the annual tradition. “We are here to honor the Blessed Mother and that is the main purpose,” he said. “It is also to show the sign faith to one another. Seeing everyone from different parishes, it is a great way to come together as one.”
The Catholic Church on Guam has been rocked by multiple lawsuits and allegations of sex abuse involving clergy from past years.
“Despite what has happened in our local church, the people are focused on the Blessed Mother,” said Kevin Delgado, longtime youth catechist from the parish of Santa Teresita in Mangilao.
“Coming together as one strengthens our faith and the church,” he said.
Before the procession began, the traditional novena and Rosary was prayed. The Rosary was recited in different languages including Chamorro, Tagalog, Chukese, and Korean throughout the procession.
Immediately after the second decade of the Rosary, ushers escorted the statue of Santa Marian Kamalen outside the Cathedral-Basilica to join the masses of Catholics waiting at their respective areas. The pristine image of Our Blessed Mother stood atop her karosa, which was beautifully decorated and adorned with bright yellow roses.
Deacon John Dierking proclaimed the Gospel passage from the top of the Cathedral-Basilica balcony. Following the proclamation of the Gospel, Archbishop Byrnes delivered an inspiring homily.
In his homily, Archbishop Byrnes spoke of how Mary is always full of Grace. “We honor Mary by renewing our amazement that God chose her to be the mother of her son,” the 58-year-old archbishop said.
“I invite you to view this amazement of grace. It is an amazing grace that God does things marvelously, simply for you and for me,” he said. “By doing this, many things will be healed and problems will be solved.”
The Archbishop further noted that Mary was prepared by God by his grace. “She didn’t earn this. Mary did nothing to be chosen to be the Mother of a son. She didn’t go through a pageant. She didn’t fill out an application,” he said.
“She was chosen solemnly by God and prepared by God through his grace and light. That’s what grace means. It’s something we earn,” he said. “It is something given to us by God’s love. It’s all a gift. We have a sense of entitlement to Mary.”
Ron Pagan, a seminarian studying for the priesthood at the St. John Paul the Great Seminary said that the festal celebration of Santa Marian Kamalen reminds us to gather as one.
He said we honor our Mother, our patroness, who once said “Yes,” in her fiat to God to be the humble maiden who brought Christ to the world.
“May we respond like Mary to the call of the Church to be one in glorifying God who loved us first,” Pangan said.
Saint Anthony Catholic School 7th grader Gabriella B. Manansala simply summed up the procession with a reminder of the importance of Our Lady of Camarin
“Walking in the procession allows me to pray and to reflect,” said Manansala.