Festivities proceed at Santa Ana church despite fire damage


Despite a fire that damaged part of the 89-year-old Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Ana, parishioners went ahead with annual celebrations for Mexico’s patron saint Sunday evening.

People arrived at the Catholic church clutching bouquets of roses and carnations in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is observed Monday. The first Mass in honor of the holiday went on as planned Sunday night, and booths lined the church parking lot to sell food and religious objects, such as prayer booklets and rosaries, throughout the evening.

The fire that tore through the church’s original sanctuary early Thursday didn’t dampen the mood of the parishioners celebrating the festive occasion. They took the blaze in stride.


Genesis Ramirez of Santa Ana has been attending the church since she was an infant. Her parents were married at Our Lady of Guadalupe, and when she got engaged, she knew exactly where she wanted to have her wedding.

“We were the last couple to be married” in the old church,” said Ramirez, 22, with a sad smile.

Her mother, Irma Ramos, also walked down the church’s aisle many times — for her own wedding, the baptisms of her three children, Ramirez’s quinceanera and wedding. She didn’t feel any tears were warranted.

“It’s very sad, but material things come and go,” Ramos said. “This teaches us to be humble.”

The original church sanctuary, which was damaged in the fire, was built in the 1920s, but the Spanish services eventually outgrew it. In the 1980s a new sanctuary was built to accommodate devotees, yet baptisms and weddings were still performed in the original building.

The historic church was undergoing renovation when the fire broke out. Firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to the new sanctuary, which suffered minor smoke and water damage. Officials believe the fire was an accident and not the result of arson.

The renovation had been four weeks away from completion.

Mario Organista, 23, of Santa Ana dressed as Juan Diego, the man who saw an apparition of the Lady of Guadalupe in 1531. He said that the fire made him sad because it fell on celebration days, but that it did not affect his faith. He saw symbolic meaning in the fire.

“It’s like a message for there to be peace and for us to be more united,” he said.

Parish Pastor Alfredo de Dios, who lives on the church property, said he woke from his sleep during the fire and thought it was a dream or a nightmare. Though the event was frightening, he said, community support has been tremendous.

“All together, we are going to rebuild the church,” he said.