Fr. Moisés Leal celebrates the solemn Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Luke Church in 2019. The pandemic has stymied this year’s feast.
Fr. Moisés Leal celebrates the solemn Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Luke Church in 2019. The pandemic has stymied this year’s feast.

Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations around the archdiocese typically include weeks of preparation and days of faith-based events that include rosaries, processions, feasts, Masses and reenactments of St. Juan Diego appearing to the Virgin Mary in Mexico in 1531. They draw hundreds and sometimes thousands of Catholics.

At Christmas, parishes welcome the faithful with full choirs and elaborate liturgies. Many who are not regular Massgoers feel moved to attend these spirit-rousing services.

This year,  all celebrations will be scaled back to keep the faithful safe and comply with the state’s latest pandemic-related restrictions.

For Our Lady of Guadalupe and Christmas liturgies, most Oregon churches will hold 25% of their capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller. Parishes in counties with fewer COVID-19 cases can welcome more worshippers.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Aloha typically has a midnight Mass, six-hour vigil, and “Las Mañanitas” — a serenade to Our Lady of Guadalupe — at dawn on the feast day, Dec. 12. There is food, dancing and skits and opportunities for confession. This year there simply will be three Masses, all livestreamed.

Father Jeff Meeuwsen, pastor, said the parish is thinking of having an outdoor shrine where people can place flowers before Our Lady and say a brief prayer.

For Christmas the plan is to add a Mass, in order to allow more parishioners to attend. All Christmas liturgies, including the bilingual midnight Mass, will be livestreamed.

“You’ve got to be innovative, and keep plowing head,” said Father Meeuwsen. “It’s also important to remember the reason for the season. This can be an opportunity to grow in faith through some suffering.”

St. Peter in Southeast Portland will have the Las Mañanitas, but no music, dance or celebratory food.

Father Raúl Márquez, pastor, will keep the parish’s two Christmas Masses limited to 25 people, even though the state’s latest rules allow for greater numbers. The Portland Archdiocese gives pastors discretion to limit numbers based on what they believe is prudent for their congregations. “I feel comfortable with 25; more feels unsafe,” said Father Márquez.

St. Anne Parish in Gresham will celebrate a virtual docenario in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This will be 12 Masses starting on the first day of December until the 12th.

On Dec. 12, there will be a mariachi band leading music during Mass at St. Anne. The parish is asking the faithful to bring photos as a symbol of their presence to the Virgin, said Father José González, pastor. “The parishioner photos will be taped to pews as a sign that they are present. They will be included in prayers,” he said.

The parish is affirming the following motto: “It is up to your children today to celebrate you from home, your house, Virgin of ours, Virgin of Guadalupe.”

St. Matthew Parish in Hillsboro will celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe with a Mass at 1 p.m., with a limited number of people in the church, parish hall and the school gym.

St. Luke Parish in Woodburn will hold a novenario with rosaries said in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe Dec. 3-12. The prayers will be broadcast via Facebook Live, said Father Moses Leal, pastor. The number of worshippers at Masses will be limited based on the state’s latest rules. “We invite the Catholic community to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe with the same fervor and affection with celebrations to be held at home, avoiding gatherings and with the appropriate health measures,” the priest said.

Father Leal said that Dec. 11 there will be the vigil Mass at 7 p.m. The church will remain open after Mass until 11 p.m. Parishioners can stop by and leave a floral offering and candles. On Dec. 12, there will be a solemn Mass, with restricted numbers, at 6 a.m. The parish will remain open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the faithful to visit. The parish asks churchgoers to follow safety protocols and respect the signs of entry and exit.

The traditional posadas of Christmas, with the reenactment of the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem, will not happen this year at St. Luke.

Father Leal said there will be Mass in Spanish at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15-24 with the prayer of posadas and rosary after.

St. Joseph Parish in Salem in 2018 hosted a Guadalupe Mass at the Oregon State Fairgrounds that brought almost 6,000 faithful. This year there will be livestreamed Masses at 8 a.m. and noon preceded by Las Mañanitas and a rosary, said María Elena Ruiz, pastoral associate for Hispanic ministry at St. Joseph.

In Grants Pass, St. Anne Parish will have an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the narthex for about five hours Dec. 12, and people will have the opportunity to place roses in front of it. Instead of musicians, there will be recorded traditional music. “Usually there are people singing their hearts out, so that will be quite different,” said Father Bill Holtzinger, pastor.

On normal years parishioners process around the neighborhood carrying a statue of Our Lady, but they decided this year there was too much risk. There will be an evening Mass preceded by a rosary.

For Christmas the parish will add a Mass to Christmas Eve and to Christmas morning. Parish staff are considering livestreaming Masses into the parish hall, and there is a side chapel that can hold additional worshippers. Under the new state guidelines, more than 100 people will be permitted at the parish.

Father Holtzinger noted that Catholics unable to receive the sacramental presence of the Lord at Christmas still have the opportunity for spiritual Communion. He said he’s heard people minimize or dismiss spiritual Communion as “not real.”

“It is not physical, of course; there’s no tasting and consuming the Eucharist,” he said. “But the spiritual presence — that is very real.”

Christmas liturgies at the archdiocese’s mother church typically are packed and include additional musicians and the full choir. This year’s numbers will be small and the music pared down — likely simply a cantor and organist. The 4 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass usually is for families and features a much-beloved Christmas pageant. That is scrapped this year.

The midnight Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Alexander Sample and livestreamed. The parish hasn’t been livestreaming its regular Masses but is looking into equipment and may start soon, said Msgr. Patrick Brennan, cathedral pastor.

Pandemic or not, added the monsignor, the Nativity scene at the cathedral will be displayed.