Fort Myers Parish celebrates Our Lady in wake of Irma Print this post

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

The Jesus the Worker Parish community was crippled by the impacts of Hurricane Irma when ferocious winds and flooding rains tore through Lee County on Sept. 10.

This procession at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers was one part of a two-day celebration of the Feast of Lady of the Rosary, the patroness of Guatemala.

In two weeks, more than 12,000 people came to the Parish, which served as a hub for recovery, both spiritually and nearly as importantly as a Catholic Charities Disaster Response distribution site for food and water.

As power was restored and people went back to work, the annual Parish Our Lady of the Rosary Festival took on a new significance.

Jesus the Worker Parish Pastor Father Patrick O’Connor, O.S.F.S., said the Catholic Guatemalan population has a special devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary and so a two-day festival on Oct. 7 and 8 was appropriate. The chance to celebrate after the hurricane added to the event.

The faithful of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers pray during Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

“The timing worked out great,” Father O’Connor explained. “This is something we do every year, but after Hurricane Irma, it is a real celebration of the Hispanic Catholic Community of Fort Myers coming back strong.”

As a special treat, a priest from a town in the Cuchamatane mountains of Guatemalan, Father Dionisio Mateo, concelebrated the three Masses for the weekend. His presence allowed for the incorporation of the Guatemalan Mayan language, a dialect unique to the region but well-known among the faithful living in Fort Myers.

Celebrating Mass in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers is visiting priest Father Dionisio Mateo, joined by Pastor Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS.

The Saturday Evening Mass was followed by an hourly celebration of the different mysteries of the rosary followed by traditional songs in both the Spanish and Mayan languages. At midnight, there was a celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary with special songs.

Maria Flores said the celebration was a welcome distraction as many pick up the pieces of their lives after Hurricane Irma. “We had damage and still have work to do, but many others are worse off than us. It has been hard, so this celebration is wonderful for everyone. The children love it for the music and the food. The adults love it because we are honoring Our Lady. You can’t have a better day than that.”

This procession at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers was one part of a two-day celebration of the Feast of Lady of the Rosary, the patroness of Guatemala.

Between the two Masses on Sunday, there was a celebration of an outdoor rosary formed by people holding flowers and banners. This included a procession with a statue of the Virgin of the Rosary accompanied by dancers.

The celebration continued following the noon Mass, with traditional Guatemalan foods and dancing. There was also the selection of a Mayan princess from among the young ladies of the parish. The celebration concluded with a traditional Guatemalan community dance with music from the national instrument of Guatemala, the marimba.

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