The Feast Day Masses at the Shrine go from strength to strength and the 2018 one could well be described as the best yet! A lady who had been present on 12 December wrote the following day:
“I wanted to thank you for a beautiful evening for Our Lady of Guadalupe and a spiritually uplifting occasion for us all”.
The Feast Day Masses are always special, but the 2018 was exceptional because we were honoured to have His Excellency Archbishop Adams, Papal Nuncio, as our Principal Celebrant. Unlike last year when it snowed, weather conditions were good and hence a huge congregation of some 500 filled the Shrine to capacity.
Among the special guests were Bishop Peter Doyle, Bishop Richard Atkinson who is the Anglican Bishop of Bedford, the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Mr Julian Polhill resplendent in his court dress, Supreme Grand Knight Bertie Grogan, his Deputy Joe Rodriguez, a number of Provincial Grand Knights and supporters from all over the country from as far away as Plymouth and Leeds. A number of visiting priests concelebrated with Archbishop Adams and were ably assisted by a large team of servers under the direction of Fr Gerard Byrne, Diocesan MC.
Many people had cleaned the church and polished the altar brass until it gleamed. The Knights of St Columba directed the VIPs to their parking spaces and welcomed the many invited guests. A team of flower arrangers had excelled themselves with an abundance of lilies and roses. Director of Music Michael Moloney had written a beautiful new Mass setting and the choir was in fine voice to perform it.
The many Guardians of the Shrine from all over the country gathered in front of the altar to renew their promises to serve our Lady of Guadalupe in the coming year.
Children presented roses to Our Lady at the offertory.
In his homily Archbishop Adams reminded us that Our Lady always points us away from herself to her Divine Son, Jesus.
At the end of the Mass, a presentation of a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe was made to Archbishop Adams, and a rosary to Bishop Peter. After the Mass, the Archbishop and the priests gathered for a group photograph, as did the Knights of St Columba, taken by professional photographer Ela Walenda, who took a total of 264 beautiful pictures in the course of the evening.
A reception was held at nearby St Frances Cabrini church hall; there was a queue stretching the length of the hall wanting to meet the Papal Nuncio. He had a few words for each one.
During the reception an announcement was made by Bertie Grogan concerning the partnership between the Knights of St Columba and SPUC in promoting a Rosary for Life in every parish in the country, for which cards will be distributed.
A happy hour or so was spent as old friends recognised each other and others met for the first time. Representatives from All Saints Travel in Swindon, who organise tours to Mexico to see the original Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, were on hand to advise.
Another visitor commented: “Just to be able to join in the celebrations was a Great, Great Grace from Almighty God and a Great Blessing from Our Lady” and many other positive comments were written in the Visitors’ Book.