The sounds of mariachi and the voices of the St. Ignatius school choir flooded the Corpus Christi Monastery Chapel last week, attracting so many congregants that many were clustered by the door in standing-room-only style for the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe service.
“It’s a wonderful way to encourage the faith,” said William Adamson, the music teacher and choir director at St. Ignatius. The service, officially called the Feast of the Immaculate Guadalupe, “is an important part of the students’ heritage, spiritually and culturally,” Adamson said.
The feast is a Latin American Catholic celebration that honors the Virgin Mary, depicted as a Mexican peasant. Mary is commonly considered the patron saint of the Americas and of Latinos.
The chapel at Corpus Christi, the monastery complex on Lafayette and Tiffany, is attached to the main building and can seat more than 100 people. Three 10-foot arched doors behind the altar open into the monastery, where the nuns sat during the service. Icons of the Virgin Mary are sprinkled throughout the room, which has soaring ceilings, wood beams and large stained-glass windows.
The chapel serves as the location for many St. Ignatius events due to the organizations’ long history together. The founding priest of St. Ignatius, a Jesuit priest named Father Joseph Towle, started the school in the chaplain’s house on the property of the monastery in the 1990s. The monastery and the school have retained a close relationship since.
“We feel like we’re the mother of the school,” said Sister Mary Hansen, the Mother Superior. “Our chapel is always open to them.”
Throughout the service, Father Jack Podsiadlo, made references to issues facing the Latino community in both English and Spanish. He was the president of St. Ignatius school until he moved to Richmond, Virginia, in 2013 for a new job. Now, he travels back to New York every year to preside over the service he first led in 2009.
“This was a chance for us to come together in solidarity,” he said referring to the families of St. Ignatius students, as well as those who work in the school.
The service itself consisted of two readings, one read by a St. Ignatius student in English and another by a community member in Spanish. The sermon was partly delivered to the students in English, and told the story of Guadalupe in a child-friendly manner. Another sermon was given in Spanish. The service included communion, after which about 40 students sang the Latin hymn “O Magnum Mysterium.”
“It’s a good opportunity to come together,” said Aaron Maldonado, 13 and an eighth grader at St. Ignatius. He had been coming to the service for three years with his family. The children who performed in the choir wore red velvet, a common liturgical color representing saints.
Vienchy Reyes, the administrative assistant at St. Ignatius, has been coming to the service for 16 years. “I love it. This is amazing,” she said. She expressed appreciation that Podsiadlo speaks Spanish during the service. “Every year we want more parents,” she said. She noted that the event is open to the public, and encouraged the public to come next year. The monastery is also open for daily mass at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sunday. The monastery also hosts retreats for school and other organizations.
The seven-member mariachi band played throughout the service. Songs included “Las Mañanitas” and “Mi Virgen Ranchera.” One of the members was 12-year-old Carlos Garcia, a student at St. Ignatius. He has played mariachi for one year, and two years of jazz trumpet.
“I was pretty nervous,” Garcia said after the service. “Learning a lot of new songs was really cool though.”
Many people said they look forward to the service each year, and love to see the students involved. Podsiadlo said he hopes to return next year and preside over the service again.
“I love coming here, to see the children grow, to see the music,” he said.