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.