Guadalupe a message for the world, re-enactor says

Mexico City native who’s performed for saints to give presentations in Detroit


Pedro Noguez Rivera, center, holds a tilma and cross blessed by Pope John Paul II with his wife, Maria Guadalupe Orozco, left, and Fr. Eduardo Montemayor, SOLT, associate director of Hispanic ministries with the Archdiocese of Detroit. Rivera is visiting the Archdiocese of Detroit until Dec. 15 for a series of presentations and performances about the story of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Detroit — Pedro Noguez Rivera doesn’t speak English — he only “breathes” it, he jokes.

But that isn’t stopping the Mexico City native from proclaiming the message of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe in English-speaking parts of the world — and all other languages that will listen.

That includes Italian. Rivera, who once presented the story of St. Juan Diego to about 5,000 priests from around the world, including Pope John Paul II, in Rome, is visiting the Archdiocese of Detroit during the months of November and December with the same mission in mind.

“Since 1990, he’s dedicated his life to going around and spreading the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe all over the world,” said Fr. Eduardo Montemayor, SOLT, director of Hispanic ministries for the archdiocese, who translated an interview with Rivera for The Michigan Catholic. “We’re friends, so I invited him as a personal friend to the archdiocese to visit. He has been invited to different churches, prayer groups and homes all over the archdiocese.”

Rivera’s visit will be capped by a special bilingual Mass and celebration Dec. 11 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Mass, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda, will be preceded by cultural songs, dances and festivities, along with a brief presentation in which Rivera — in full dress — will re-enact the moment when St. Juan Diego released the roses from his tilma and revealed the divinely imprinted image on it to the bishop, played by Bishop Cepeda.

A major goal of the Mass and celebration at Detroit’s cathedral will be to bring together local parish-based “Guadalupanas” — or Guadalupe societies — into a single federation under the Archiofradia Universal de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, the universal federation of Guadalupe groups worldwide at the basilica in Mexico City, Fr. Montemayor said. About 10 such groups exist currently in the archdiocese.

For Rivera, who grew up in Mexico City, where the apparitions took place, the significance of the story was evident from an early age.

“When we’re born, it seems that God is already guiding us a certain way,” Rivera told The Michigan Catholic. “Because since I was 4 years old, my parents would take me to the Basilica (of Our Lady of Guadalupe) dressed as little Juan Diego. So buried inside of me, I had the calling to dress like Juan Diego in relationship to Our Lady since I was very young.”

When he was 28, after giving performances on Juan Diego for several years, Rivera was invited to the Vatican to give a presentation in front of the pope, with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta also present.

Despite this, Rivera didn’t get his hopes up for meeting the pope, he said, because “there were 5,000 priests in Rome and they all wanted an audience with Pope John Paul II.”

“But it happened exactly as it happened to Juan Diego,” he said. “To Juan Diego, they didn’t permit him to see the bishop. It was very difficult for a little peasant person to see the bishop. That’s what Our Lady had asked — but he had a very hard time. He was sent by the Virgin twice for the bishop to receive him, so Our Lady opened the way for Juan Diego to meet the bishop.

“For me in Rome, it was the same thing: Our Lady brought me to the pope, the bishop of Rome. And how did it happen? Because the presentation was received very well, it reached his ears, and they chose me to receive Communion from the hands of the pope.”

While Communion was an enormous blessing, Rivera said, that wasn’t the end of the Blessed Mother’s influence that day. Later, it was her intercession that permitted him to be granted a private audience with the Holy Father, he said, who conferred a special papal blessing on Rivera and his tilma.

Asked what it meant to have been blessed by a living saint — and another potential saint in Blessed Mother Teresa — Rivera reflected before joking, “If the pope touched me, those things that saints touch become relics, so that makes me a relic!”

“But seriously, I feel like it’s a great responsibility. Two saints in life had given me their blessing. What responsibility I have! I can’t just be in my house lying back; but where do you want to take me, Lord?”

Since then, He’s taken Rivera to three continents and several countries presenting the story of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe with his wife, Maria Guadalupe Orozco, who plays the voice of the Blessed Virgin in a “beautiful dialogue,” Fr. Montemayor said.

Rivera has also written a short booklet — in Spanish — about the tilma and the significance of the many symbols contained within it. And everywhere he goes, he brings rosaries from the basilica in Mexico City to hand out to those he encounters.

“I don’t feel a part of the world,” Rivera said. “I belong to God, and it’s a very big commitment.”


 Vigil of Our Lady of Guadalupe

What: A multicultural Mass and celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas

Where: Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 9844 Woodward Ave., Detroit

When: Songs, dances and festivities from 4:30-6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 11, followed by a bilingual Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda

Details: Parking is free and secure, and those interested may contact their local Guadalupana group for help with transportation. All are invited. Attendees are also encouraged to bring flowers to present to Our Lady. Call (313) 237-4664 for more information.

St. Juan Diego presentations

Pedro Noguez Rivera, a world-renown expert on St. Juan Diego and the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, will give presentations, talks and performances at several parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit in the coming weeks (call each parish for more information):

St. Anastasia Parish, Troy (Nov. 29, 6 p.m.)

St. Gabriel Parish, Detroit (Nov. 30, 8 p.m.)

Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish, Detroit (Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.)

St. Stephen/Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Detroit (Dec. 6, 7 p.m.)

Holy Redeemer Parish, Detroit (Dec. 9, 7 p.m. and Dec. 10, 11 a.m.)

All Saints Parish, Detroit (Dec. 10, 7 p.m.)

Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit (Dec. 11, 4:30 p.m.)

Holy Redeemer Parish, Detroit (Dec. 12, 5 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.)