A Workshop presented by Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Barbara Gutiérrez.

On December 9, 2018, more than 80 people gathered at Boston’s Shrine of St. Anthony for a Spanish language mass said by Fr. Peter Gyves, SJ, MD, founder and president of A Faith That Does Justice (AFTDJ). The mass commemorated Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is December 12. Following mass, Fr. Peter welcomed Sr. Barbara Gutiérrez, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and native of Mexico, to speak about Our Lady of Guadalupe, Faithful Companion. Sr. Barbara retold the story of the Virgin’s visits with Juan Diego beginning in the year 1531 in present-day Mexico City. She described how the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe contains many significant themes that are especially important and identifiable to Latin American people. One of the most obvious is her physical appearance which more closely resembles the indigenous people of Mexico than the European people who came to Mexico to convert the native populations to Christianity and Catholicism. Each facet of her clothing and the symbols used in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hold a meaning for the people to whom she spoke with during her apparitions. Sr. Barbara reminded us that devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe unites the people of Latin America. No longer are people simply from one state or another, from one country or another. They identify as faithful followers of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

AFTDJ’s mission is to raise consciousness about social issues that affect the most vulnerable among us and to create opportunities to walk in solidarity with those less fortunate. Sr. Barbara reminded us that the Virgin of Guadalupe made her appearances not to the newly arrived Catholic people from Europe, but to an indigenous man. She spoke eloquently about vulnerable populations who live at countries’ borders for most of history, as well as the vulnerable who reside in the inner cities. Using the words of the Second Vatican Council, Sr. Barbara talked about the “Option for the Poor,” a doctrine that examines God’s universal love and his preferential love of the poor. In contrast, while describing privileged populations, she postulated that the absence of vulnerability of the people in this group causes their inability to have genuine feelings, to truly be alive and recognize that our “lives and futures are always beyond our complete control.”

AFTDJ’s workshops teach us to honor the human dignity of all and to examine how faith challenges each of us to work for a share in God’s creations. Sr. Barbara posed the idea that God’s love, because of its universality, takes different forms for different groups of people. God’s love for vulnerable populations is just that simple and unconditional. His love for less vulnerable populations presents them the challenge of approaching and knowing the vulnerable, honoring their human dignity and changing a negative or neutral view of the vulnerable to one where their very human dignity is acknowledged and respected.

Sr. Barbara reminded us that as much as we would like to think that we control our own happiness, happiness is beyond our control. Happiness cannot be found merely by seeking it. Rather, it can be found by reaching beyond borders and barriers that we have created. We never know at what moment we will find happiness, or who will show us that happiness. It is likely to be the poor, people we don’t know, people we perceive as powerless or weak, people whom we fear. Their vulnerability does not impede them from the ability to touch a total stranger with the love that God has bestowed upon them.