DeKalb Campus Church Celebrates Day of the Dead
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
November 9, 2017
DEKALB—Mexican traditions are preserved and transmitted through young people at Christ the Teacher University Parish, the Newman Center on the campus of Northern Illinois, here.
On Nov. 2, the date of the celebration of Día de los muertos (Day of the Dead), el Fuego del Espíritu (The Fire of the Spirit), a group of Catholic Hispanic youth from NIU shared the tradition of prayers, typical Mexican food, activities and a Mass. 
Cathy Kralka, from Virgil, and three of her seven children were there. 
“I’ve never been to a Day of the Dead party. We enjoyed it,”  she said.
Children to adults took part in activities related to the celebration, such as coloring a skull  decorated with flowers and playing hidden word games.
Children could pick a favorite graphic to be painted on their faces. Summer Luby, who volunteered to paint faces, said “I like to do make up.”
At a “photo booth,” a Mexican hat and some masks were among props Joe Grcenia, a marketing student, used to take pictures.
“I read about the event on Facebook,” he said. “I figured free food, good time, I’m totally in.”
Some others, mostly children, tried to hit a pinata full of candy until it broke. 
All this happened under a ceiling decorated with colorful papel picado (paper decorations).
On one side of the room was an altar de muertos (altar of the dead) and on the other side was the buffet with typical Mexican foods — pozole, burritos, rice, beans, Mexican spaghettis, horchata (a drink made of rice, milk, vanilla, and other ingredients), lemonade, pan de muertos (bread of death), flan,  and more. 
Music filled the space with evocative melodies and rhythms.
“This date is celebrated in the cemetery, people would clean the grave of their loved ones, bring flowers and even the favorite objects or food that person liked the most,” explained Yesenia Nevares, an NIU student and president of The Fire of the Spirit. “But we wanted to celebrate this party and share our traditions with you.”
“In Mexico this day is celebrated with a morning Mass for all dead in the cemetery,” said Father Manuel Gomez, parochial vicar of St. Rita of Cascia in Aurora, in a separate interview.
In some Mexican homes, Nov. 2 is also celebrated with an altar of the dead. Candles, yellow flowers, and the things that the deceased liked, along with colorful little skulls made of sugar adorn the altar.
“Mexicans are actually ‘mocking death,’ ” said Father Matthew McMorrow,  pastor of Christ the Teacher University Parish. They do this to show they “are not afraid of the dead” because  “God overcame death.” 
Father McMorrow invited prayers while he blessed the altar of the dead, where photos and favorite objects of the loved ones of the participants had been placed. 
After lighting candles, students in a procession went up to the church for a Spanish Mass in memory of the deceased.