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SANTA ANA : Catholics Celebrate Virgin of Guadalupe

Those who did not come early enough to claim seats stood in the aisle, mounted the steps to fill up the choir section, crowded the hallways outside the sanctuary and even spilled out the doors leading into the building.

Thousands were determined to celebrate the 460th anniversary Thursday night of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to a Mexican Indian in what is now Mexico City.

Images of the mother of Christ were everywhere in the sanctuary of the Church of Our Lady of Pilar, from the light covers made of stained glass to the wall-size mosaic facing the congregation from the back of the altar.

It is on this mosaic that some worshipers say they have seen the Virgin Mary. The modern-day apparition has attracted hundreds of people each day to the church on West 6th Street in the early morning, when sunshine slanting through a stained-glass window is said to show faint details of a face.

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A mariachi band, standing near rows of flowers on the altar, played between prayers led by priests in Spanish.

Standing with her family in a back pew in the choir section looking down to the main sanctuary and the altar, 28-year-old Angelica Pena of Santa Ana said she has been attending the celebration since infancy.

“The Virgin is the mother of all the Mexican people,” explained Pena, now with a baby of her own.

Outside the building, Bertha Murillo, 29, stood in a Mexican peasant outfit and waited for the one-hour service to end. She and 10 other members of the church’s Young Ministers of Christ group would then slip to the altar to act out the apparition, she said.

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