On March 17, Dr. Nichole Flores, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, explored the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe during a virtual colloquium at Sacred Heart University.
“Dr. Flores has been rightly praised by Olga Segura as ‘one of the most important theological voices in the Catholic church today,’” said Dr. Charles Gillespie, a professor in the Department of Catholic Studies. “She holds degrees from Smith College, Yale University and Boston College.”
Flores began the presentation by explaining the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego, a Christian, encountered Our Lady of Guadalupe and an apparition of the Virgin Mary. According to the story, she told Juan Diego that he must visit the Bishop and that Guadalupe Basilica was to be built in Mexico City. Juan Diego felt unworthy to visit the Bishop due to his social status.
After unsuccessful visits to the Bishop, Juan Diego attempted one last time with flowers when a sign appeared: “the image of the Virgin Mary that Catholics and many others believe appeared to St. Juan Diego on a hill outside modern day Mexico City in 1532,” according to Flores.
“The relationship between Guadalupe and Juan Diego acknowledges the narrative’s essential connection to rectification of power imbalances in both the ecclesial and political structures,” said Flores. “It situates anyone who has encountered oppression in any dimension as Guadalupe’s beloved child whom she empowers to recognize and embrace the autonomous and relational dimensions of their personhood within the work of justice.”
Students had positive reactions to the presentation.
“Juan Diego was chosen to approach the Bishop by Our Lady of Guadalupe to see a sign from God. Though Juan Diego had lower social class, God still spoke to him. This story relates to our world today because it shows that God is there for us no matter our gender or social class,” said senior Katie Russelman.
Our Lady of Guadalupe stands as a symbol for United Farm Workers’ movements, immigration reform and empowerment for Mexican and Latina women.
“The symbol of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is always hope that something great can happen. I found the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego to be beautiful and inspiring,” said Russelman.
Annually, the Our Lady of Guadalupe torch run takes places to honor Guadalupe. The torch run travels from Mexico City to New York City. The run is to raise awareness for citizenship rights and human rights. Each year, activists carry the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe along the run.
“From Denver to Charlottesville to New York City, a political theology of Guadalupe and Juan Diego places her on the side of those who have been subject to unjust legacies of conquest, colonization, slavery, segregation, racism, sexual violence, and unjust deportation,” said Flores. “It is a political theology of Magnifica where Mary’s soul is magnified where she is witness to God’s promise to lift up the lowly.”