Cover of the Tulsa World

Well I got a big surprise for my birthday – my picture on the cover of the Tulsa World.

Last night, August 13th (my birthday) I was one of thousands of participants in the celebration crowning Mary, the mother of Christ, the Queen of the Tulsa Diocese. The event began at 5:00 pm with dancers in front of the Cathedral. Then at 6:30 was the celebration of the Eucharist with 5 Bishops, many priests, deacons and seminarians, and a large number of the faithful from Tulsa and even the surrounding states. After Mass we processed from the Cathedral to St. Francis Catholic Church where the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe resides. At one time you could see the story on the Tulsa World website, but the link has expired.

I was honored to carry the processional crucifix and that is when they took the picture. Thousands of Christians praising God and honoring Mary – what a birthday party!

Here is the caption that was run with the picture in the Tulsa World:

Hundreds of pilgrims joined a 2.5-mile procession from Holy Family Cathedral to St. Francis Xavier Church on Sunday with a replica of the Lady of Guadalupe shrine. This year marks the 475th anniversary of the image of the Virgin Mary reportedly being imprinted on the cloak of a Mexican peasant, Juan Diego, after she appeared to him.
A. CUERVO / Tulsa World

Here is the story by Leigh Woosley of the Tulsa World:

When Marcela Zuniga’s first son was in the hospital with meningitis, the young mother prayed to a more noted mother, the Virgin Mary.

If Mary would heal her son, Zuniga would sacrifice her long brown hair. Three weeks later, her son was out of the hospital and six months later, Zuniga’s hair was cut well above her shoulders.

When her second son was born little more than a year ago with jaundice, Zuniga again turned to the Virgin Mary. If Mary would heal her son, Zuniga promised her husband would convert to Catholicism.

The jaundice went away, and Billy Bailey became a Catholic last Easter.

Zuniga told the story after struggling to define the deep-rooted faith she and her fellow Hispanics have in the Virgin Mary.

She didn’t have to say a thing.

The devotion was clear in the mostly Hispanic crowd of thousands that circled Zuniga in Sunday’s afternoon heat. She sat with her family on the steps of Holy Family Cathedral to celebrate a day 475 years ago when “Our Lady of Guadalupe” appeared to a poor man in Mexico.

Catholic tradition believes the Lady of Guadalupe was a manifestation of Mary who in 1531 visited Juan Diego three times, healed his sick uncle and miraculously emblazened her image on his peasant’s cloak.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is Mary, the mother of Jesus. They are one in the same,” said the Rev. Daniel Campos, priest at St. Francis Xavier Church, which became the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe two years ago.

In the church since has been a replica of the Catholic icon, a life-size, iridescent picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, her hands held in prayer, framed in a heavy gold material. But the massive symbol was presented Sunday at the cathedral for the coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe as Queen of the Diocese of Tulsa.

The next coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be in 100 years.

It took at least 10 men to lift the replica from the bed of a blue truck where it rode on a gold-plated pedestal surrounded by flowers. The men dressed in blue shirts, black ties and white gloves carried it into the cathedral for an honorary Mass as people clapped and took pictures with cameras and cell phones.

“Ave Maria” rang from church speakers clear to people poured into a parking lot 50 yards away. The crowd spread from the parking lot, into the street, up the cathedral stairs and into the church where a standing-room-only Mass was held. Some guessed 2,000 to 3,000 people were there.

Growing up with Mexican Catholic parents, 16-year-old Cristina Espino said the Virgin Mary and the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe were foundations of her household.

“Mexicans grow up and it’s part of our every day,” she said. “(The Virgin Mary) that’s what we live for, to worship her.”

Cristina said at least 20 pictures of the Virgin Mary are scattered through her home. And how many of Jesus? About the same, she said.

After the mostly Spanish-spoken Mass, people made a procession carrying the representation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, flags and flowers from Holy Family downtown to St. Francis Xavier at Admiral Boulevard near Lewis Avenue, a more than two-mile walk.

The day steamed beneath a blaring sun, but undeterred were the worshippers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has a unique, loving hold on the Mexican spirit.

“The Hispanic culture has a more maternal feeling since we depend on mothers for everything,” said the Rev. David Medina, director of the Hispanic apostolate at the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa. “Mothers spend their entire lives at home with the children, and they are the first to teach morals, how we should treat others and our religion.”

When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, people were fruitlessly trying to convert Mexicans to Christianity, but her appearance convinced them that the religion was truth and it is estimated that 6,000, some even say 10,000 or 15,000, became Christians afterward.

The Virgin Mary is the mother figure who “if you pray very hard makes you feel better when you’re sick,” said 36-year-old Belisario Castro in broken English. He came to the United States from Mexico six years ago.

Many people at the celebration could not speak English, but each one understand when they heard the English words: the Virgin Mary or Our Lady of Guadalupe. And many eyes lit up at the sound of it.

“She helped all of the Mexicans,” Zuniga said. “When we don’t have anything, she helps us. When we have nothing, she helps us.”


One response to “Cover of the Tulsa World

  1. John's seminary friend

    John O’Neill is a truely “Blessed” man and a good brother in Christ. He is one of the most positive human beings I have ever met. My all his blues be green.

    “Everyday is miserable for the depressed, but a lighthearted man has a continual feast”

    Proverbs 15:15

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