December 8 is known to be the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Teachings in the Church emphasize the manner in which Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, making this event extremely important especially to those who adhere to the religion.
On this day, the Santa Maria Kamalen Procession happens in the capital of Guam, Hagatna. It is important for Catholics to go because it is a way of honoring the Patroness of Guam.
Gabriel Leon Guerrero, a sophomore at Father Duenas Memorial School, explains the significance of the event to the general public.
“To the public, this is a day off from work or school. However, it is so that we can fulfill our duties as Catholics by honoring our patroness saint. Mary was given the ultimate task of bearing the world’s savior and even had to watch him suffer and die, but in all of this she does not complain. I admire Mother Mary for her unrelenting loyalty to God.”
Leon Guerrero is not a very religious Catholic because of his family’s busy schedule. It gets in the way of pious responsibilities such as attending church. He also currently does not have any customs or rituals on this special day, but he hopes that will change this year by convincing his family to join.
“I have never felt forced to attend this event, rather more compelled to go for the wrong reasons. My religion teacher was giving extra credit for joining the Procession and I went, but I learned the importance of this day and I would not mind going again.”
Leon Guerrero learned two lessons from this event: every good thing that happens to us we must thank Mother Mary for praying to God for us in heaven, and that religion can bring many people together.
“Most Catholic schools require students to attend the Procession. While it seems forced, I believe that this instills an obligation to continue this tradition to start going every year and bringing more people with them.”
Jordan Leon Guerrero, a senior at Notre Dame High School, explains the legend of Santa Maria Kamalen.
“The importance of this image of our lady is immense for the residents of Guam. According to the legend, the image of our lady came from the ocean riding on crabs blessing our island. Our grandparents, who went through the war, said that our Lady protected us from all the bombing that was supposed to happen on Guam.”
According to him, this event is very special to our island and our culture. His grandparents and his great grandparents have strongly encouraged the youth to celebrate this feast. To the island, she means a lot.
“To me, this feast and celebration is something that have been doing for a long time. It’s a tradition that our families uphold and I strongly believe that we, the youth, should continue this tradition to strengthen our faith and the faith of our children.”
Leon Guerrero stated that the most important value and lesson that he learned from this procession is the gratitude given to Mary, our Mother. As his elders have held this tradition, the island of Guam should too. He learned that our faith can be strengthened because this 300-year-old statue is a symbol of our protection from evils and temptations that we face every day of our lives.
Catholic schools play a large role in preserving this tradition. Some may require their students to go and some may be highly encouraged. Nevertheless, a good amount of students still attend the procession even to this day. Not only do the schools strengthen our faith and encourage students, but the parishes do too. For those in Confirmation, they are required and encouraged to go as a way of preparing themselves for Confirmation.
We not only celebrate our patroness Santa Maria Kamalen. We also celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. From this point on, we look and study her life as she said “yes” to be the Mother of God. Like her, we should yes to God’s calling.
Leon Guerrero finished off by giving advice to all Catholics.
“My advice for Catholics would be to take the time to thank God. Thank God for the smallest and the largest things and the best and worst things in our lives. Everything that happens in our lives, whether good or bad, small or large are for a bigger purpose in the end. Everybody’s life is different and everybody goes through different obstacles. My advice is to ensure that your faith is still strong and to stay positive because it only gets better.”