A joyful procession, accompanied by religious chants and enthusiastic psalmody echoed through the small residential streets of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, southwest of Los Angeles, as the sun was about to set behind the central part of the mountain range on a Friday afternoon. The procession was a mix of about 100 visitors from the mainland and their new friends, carrying framed images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego strapped to the back of pickup trucks.
Neighbors poked their heads outside and then stepped out onto their porches. Tourists, at the wheel of electric rental cars, stopped dead in their tracks. Some joined them and asked what it was all about.
Among the pilgrims was Auxiliary Bishop Marc V. Trudeau, who felt that this was an occasion to help the curious. "There is something wonderful about this place: it is different to live here; it is very relaxed." said Bishop Trudeau, who is in charge of the St. Peter Pastoral Region, which includes Avalon. "So, when you can have a parade of people here with a couple of floats of all colors, the people in this place can't help but want to know what's going on.".
A two-mile ride that began and ended at the front steps of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church - past City Hall and up Avalon Canyon Road to the historic Bird Park aviary before making a detour - gave way to a cavalcade escorted by the local Knights of Columbus and cheered by young children in colorful costumes.
The route constituted only part of the day's pilgrimage, which lasted from dawn to dusk on October 22. This was the first of several stations that the images will travel around the archdiocese in preparation for the 90th annual procession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which this year coincides with the Jubilee Year of St. Gabriel, commemorating 250 years of Catholicism in Los Angeles.
The day began just after dawn with the blessing of the images by Bishop Trudeau, which were placed on a small boat, the Lotus, in Long Beach, accompanied by a serenade of mariachis and young dancers. The boat required five hours to cross the 26-mile long waterway to deliver the images.
Meanwhile, some 60 pilgrims from nine parishes in the archdiocese made the one-hour trip to Avalon, traveling on the Catalina Express.
"The boat ride may seem slow", said Lotus owner Carm Gullo, a parishioner of Laguna Beach's St. Catherine of Siena Parish."But it was very efficient".
Mark Padilla, who has been a Knight of Columbus for the past 20 years at St. Anthony's Church in San Gabriel, has become known as the "driver" of the images as he attends various events, including visiting inmates in prisons. He says he took the day off from his job as a sixth-grade teacher at St. Joseph School in La Puente to coordinate the delivery, knowing that what he would experience at Catalina would be something he could share with his students.
"We can see the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hispanic communities all over Los Angeles, but it is important that it reaches Catalina Island and that it goes everywhere, as it should.", said Padilla. "We need to know her unique message, as a sign pointing to our faith. I have a great devotion to her and feel a great responsibility towards her.".
St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the 22 parishes designated during the Jubilee as pilgrimage sites for Forward in Missionhas history on its side. Although it was established in 1902, its base of operations on Catalina Island was a site recorded as a place where the Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo celebrated Masses of thanksgiving in 1542, as did Sebastián Vizcaíno, in 1602, the latter represented in several murals on the walls of the church.
Reflecting on the events of the days leading up to the boat trip home, Bishop Trudeau hoped that those making the trip would realize that the pilgrimage was far from over. Trudeau hoped that those making the trip would realize that the pilgrimage was far from over.
"What counts in a pilgrimage is the process. You don't finish the pilgrimage when you arrive at the destination. Getting to Catalina was not the pilgrimage. Looking back at past history, it is wonderful that we make these small pilgrimages, which are models of the larger pilgrimage that is our lives.".
During an evening Mass, celebrated before the pilgrims headed back to the mainland, Bishop Trudeau also peppered his homily with exclamations that had been heard throughout the day by the "pilgrims": "!Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe, long live San Juan Diego, long live Christ the King! ". And then he added a fourth: "!Viva Santa Catalina!".
Los Angeles journalist.