Fort Myers Guatemalan community celebrates Patroness

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers is home to a diverse and faithful Hispanic Catholic community and there are often celebrations to mark significant occasions.

From Oct. 5-7 a celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary, Patroness of Guatemala, took over the community with a vigil, prayers, procession, food, music, dancing and even a few fireworks.

Consuela de Lara, who dressed in traditional clothing from her home province for the procession and Mass on Oct. 6, said Our Lady of the Rosary is an important religious figure for the Guatemalan people and nation. “It is a celebration for all.”

The main celebration at Jesus the Worker Parish began a gathering in front of a temporary outdoor shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary. The shrine included a statue that was placed on a platform which was adorned with flowers. The faithful prayed the Holy Rosary before the platform was carried throughout the parking lot as music reflecting the community’s strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin was sung.

The ceremony was led by children dressed in traditional Guatemalan clothing and carrying flowers. Many of the adults also carried flowers and wore traditional clothing, each color and design representing their hometown.

Father Patrick O’Connor, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of Jesus the Worker, passed out blessed rosaries to the younger children before the procession.

A small hand-carved and painted statue of Our Lady was also carried during the procession and placed in the Church at the beginning of the Mass. This statue was brought back from Guatemala by Father O’Connor during a recent mission trip. Like the larger statue, the image has a large rosary in her right hand and in her left she holds the Child who seems to be trying to free himself from her embrace. There is a popular tradition that the Virgin Mary went out to travel throughout the Americas and that the Child fell asleep when they reached Guatemala, which is why she stayed there.

Of special significance to this year’s celebration was the recent announcement that Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri, from the Diocese Huehuetenango, Guatemala, was elevated to Cardinal on Oct. 5 by Pope Francis. Father O’Connor noted that many are from that very poor region of Guatemala, which has a strong Mayan Indian population.

“It is exciting for them, and all of the people of Guatemala,” Father O’Connor explained.

After the Mass, the celebration continued in the Parish Hall 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. A more subdued celebration took place on Oct. 7, the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

While Our Lady of the Rosary is the Patroness of Guatemala, and there was a special emphasis to recognize the specific community, the celebration was welcoming to the entire community which includes faithful from across the Americas. Other days honoring Our Lady are celebrated at the parish with equal enthusiasm throughout the year.

Assumption: contemplating this mystery of the Blessed Virgin

Holy Day of Obligation Aug. 15

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

The upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be celebrated Aug. 15, is a particular time in the year to reflect upon the story of eternal hope for the faithful.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Guido Reni, circa 1642.

Pope Francis said the Assumption (a Holy Day of Obligation) is a time when “the holy faithful people of God express with joy their veneration of the Virgin Mother. They do so in the common liturgy and also in a thousand different ways of piety; and thus, the prophecy of Mary herself comes true: ‘All generations will call me blessed’ (Luke 1:48), because the Lord has regarded His humble handmaid.”

The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, in soul and body, is a divine privilege accorded to the Holy Mother of God because of her particular union with Jesus, Pope Francis noted.

“It’s a corporal and spiritual union, which began with the Annunciation and matured throughout Mary’s life, through her singular participation in her Son’s mystery,” the Holy Father continued. “Mary always went with her Son: she went behind Jesus, and so we say she was His first disciple.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Assumption in this way: “The Immaculate Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of death.”

Pope Francis said that while the Blessed Virgin has entered into heavenly glory, this does not mean that She is distant or detached from us; “rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, and sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. The stupendous reality of Mary’s Assumption manifests and confirms the unity of the human person, and it reminds us that we are called to serve and glorify God with all our being, soul and body. To serve God only with the body would be an action of slaves; to serve God only with the soul would be against our human nature.”

This Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest celebration of Our Lady. The original celebration was known as the “Memory of Mary” or “Falling Asleep” of Mary for it initially centered on the end of her earthly existence, commonly known as her “dormition.”

Soon the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,” since there was much more to the feast than the end of her earthly life. The belief that Mary had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven dates back to the Apostles themselves.

Clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of the end of her earthly existence or dormition. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)

In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church, therefore, an ancient belief became Catholic Doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.

The declaration of the dogma was to “make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective,” Pope Pius XII stated in a proclamation.

The proclamation went on to say that the definition of the Assumption “will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it (reflects and builds up) the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds.”

It was also expected that the faithful would be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother; And that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others.

Pope Francis said the current devotion that the faithful throughout the world have toward the Blessed Virgin confirms, the earlier expectations of Pope Pius XII.

St. Joseph serves as an example

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

3/29/19

St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and stepfather of Jesus Christ, serves as an example for us all as he responded to the call of the Lord each time and with his heart and soul.

The Feast of St. Joseph took place on March 19 and Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated two Masses to mark the occasion. The first Mass was at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton where the Bishop told students in the upper grades of the Catholic School that the most important trait of St. Joseph had was his obedience.

“He was willing to listen to the Lord in his life and do what the Lord asked of him,” Bishop Dewane added. “You must listen and strive to do the will of the Lord so that you can be even more Christ-like as you live your faith. You must be humble in your own way so as to do – not always what you want – but to do what the Lord asks.”

Later in the day, the Bishop celebrated the Mass in Italian at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Organized by the Italian-American Club of Venice, the Mass was followed by a procession, with an escort of a statue of St. Joseph with the Knights of Columbus Color Corps in the lead, to the Parish Hall.

There, Bishop Dewane blessed a St. Joseph’s Table which was piled with bread made by members of the Italian-American Club of Venice. A celebration followed with many personally thanking the Bishop and other priests present, including presenting them with loaves of bread, for their participation in the Feast Day Mass.

The tradition of the “St. Joseph Table” of food (“la tavala di San Giuseppe”) has its origins in Sicily as part of a Middle Ages celebration of the ending of a drought where food – bread in particular – is brought to be shared among the townsfolk.

Parish Spirit Center blessed

By Bob Reddy

Florida Catholic

In a celebration worthy of a Feast Day, the new Spirit Center of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples was blessed.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass on Feb. 21, the Vigil of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, and then presided over a prayer service and blessing ceremony for the new Spirit Center, which is the result of a multi-year effort for this rapidly growing community.

The Spirit Center is part of a multi-phase effort to handle the rapidly growing Parish which has seen a 54 percent increase in registered parishioners between 2008 and 2014 alone. Today the Parish has more than 8,000 families with Mass celebrated in three languages: English, Spanish and Creole.

The Bishop congratulated the gathered faithful for responding to the call of Jesus Christ with their support of the project and their presence as people of faith.

“You have helped move St. Peter the Apostle Parish forward in its history,” Bishop Dewane added. “Never forget the blessings the Lord has provided to bring your entire Parish Community to this point as you take the next step forward into a bright future.”

The 13,000-square-foot Spirit Center can easily accommodate more than 600 people, triple the previous center. In addition to a full kitchen, the space has movable partitions to allow the sectioning off areas for many different uses. Stained-glass windows from the old hall – which was the original church – were converted for use as free-standing works of art on either side of the stage. The structure also has a canopy which extends to the Parish Church.

St. Peter the Apostle Pastor Father Gerard Critch credited the people of the parish for the long-term commitment and sacrifice of many people to make the new Spirit Center possible.

“St. Peter’s is a true community parish, with everyone coming together and reflecting the Light of Christ here in Naples,” Father Critch said.

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