SUMTER — December 14 was cold and rainy, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering at St. Jude Church to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with an outdoor Mass and dedication of a new shrine built in her honor.
The rain let up just enough for St. Jude’s pastor, Father Alistair McKay, and Father Charles Aschmann, parochial vicar at St. Anne Church, to bless the shrine and quickly process to the large tent behind the church where Mass was celebrated by the two Redemptorist priests.
During the Mass, the Mariachi band from Florence played with the Hispanic choir and their musicians. The local Mexican restaurant, San Jose, paid for the band who later entertained the families during a potluck dinner served by the Knights of Columbus.
“You all made this day happen,” said the pastor as he acknowledged the many people who helped with the celebration and the shrine. He also showed everyone the Marian vestments that had been made for the priests and deacons.
The shrine started with about 11 Hispanic men laying its foundation. The structure, painting, and tile flooring was all done for free by a volunteer force during the evenings and weekends. The only work that had to be contracted out was the installation of glass walls that encase the 10-by-14-foot structure.
During Mass, Father McKay called to the front the three builders — Marceko Flores Pulido, Aron Olguin de Lapaz and Delfino Flores Eufracio — and said that he was going to put a plaque with their names on it in the shrine for all their extra efforts.
“I would ask these men how the work was coming along, and they would answer, ‘Don’t worry Padre. It will be done by tomorrow,’” said Father McKay.
Alice Ingram, a parishioner at St. Jude Church who is the director of the Migrant Ministry, was asked to find the statue for the shrine since everyone liked the one she had donated a few years back for the church in honor of her grandmother, Guadalupe.
Ingram agreed to go back to Mexico, where she found a beautiful four-foot statue that was similar to the other one. She also purchased a lovely image of St. Juan Diego, to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531.
The statues were donated by some parishioners who also paid for their shipment. The Knights and Ladies’ Auxiliary of St. Peter Claver also gave a donation towards the project that they knew meant so much to their fellow parishioners.
The idea of the shrine surfaced shortly after the priest became pastor of St. Jude, 18 months ago. Even though only a couple of dozen families regularly attended the bilingual Mass on Sunday, Father McKay knew there were many more Hispanic families in the area because of the work done during the summer by visiting seminarians.
The shrine project became an unexpected vehicle to bring more people to the church. The response was overwhelming, and an added benefit is that the Hispanic Mass now has more than 150 families attending.
Father McKay, originally from Scotland, spent 35 years in South Africa as a missionary, and once again is having to learn a new language and culture. He is now able to say the Mass in Spanish.
“You must accept people in their own culture,” said Father McKay.