By: Edwin Vasquez
Last Saturday, at the Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster, a mass and celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place. The #CountMeIn team organized a “chalk on the walk” engagement and welcoming everybody that wanted to participate. It was overcast with the possibility of rain, so instead of painting on the floor, we used the picnic tables outside the church. Sheets of black paper were provided along with boxes of special chalk, of which the colors intensify when left on water for a few minutes, in addition to stencils, rags, gloves and reference photos of the Virgin.
I was invited to go inside a large community room to announce our event happening outside the covered patio. The room was full of families having lunch. I witnessed such a diversity of races, all in one room having a great time and united by their faith, while a Mexican singer was entertaining the audience. When he finished his song, the audience gave him a warm round of applause. I made the announcement in Spanish.
Our engagement was scheduled to start at 2:30 PM but, the response was so good, it started at 1:00 PM instead. The background music from inside the cafeteria gave us a sense of being part of a great celebration; people inside were shouting “Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe” (Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe) and everybody in a single voice repeated it several times, followed by applause and cheers.
Mrs. Stela Rodriguez, one of the older participants, was creating an image of the Virgin using a stencil. She was really immersed in her painting; she had a soft smile and made me wonder if perhaps she was speaking to the Virgin every time she left a mark on the paper.
A young girl was painting under the supervision of her father; he was very patient and supportive. Every time she got over excited, he calmly reminded her to breathe gently and then she relaxed and continued painting. “She is my adopted daughter”, he said softly and told me her short life story; I was moved because this man is truly a superhero in my eyes.
Another participant in the workshop was this soft spoken man, wearing a clean white shirt. I explained to him in Spanish the best way to use the chalk. He started painting immediately as if he knew what he wanted to say. I brought him a couple reference photos, but he knew by heart the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I noticed the image he painted didn’t have a face, I asked him about it and his answer still resonates. He said: “The virgen is all of us, her face is our face, when we see her, we see ourselves, that’s why we have to love and respect each other.” I asked him if I could interview him, he declined. I didn’t see him leave, but he left the art piece on the table.
So, what makes a community stronger? Is it the people, the food, the music, perhaps its faith? I don’t know the answer for sure, but I was able to be part of a community event with our #CountMeIn team; it was intended to inform people about the census and the importance of being counted. In return, I was reminded about unity, selfless love and respect. I was reminded that faith in humanity is doing the right thing, for the right reasons. A strong community is the one that opens its arms to everyone, no matter where they come from. The Sacred Heart Church is community strong.