With devotion and festivity, members of San Juan Bautista Parish in Lancaster celebrated an historic event in the life of their parish on Nov. 19, giving honor to their Puerto Rican heritage.
Celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Providence, the patroness of Puerto Rico, parishioners welcomed Bishop Álvaro Corrada del Río, S.J., Bishop Emeritus of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, for a festive Mass followed by a Marian procession and celebration with food and music.
During the Friday evening Mass, Bishop Ronald Gainer blessed a statue of Our Lady of Providence, which was adorned in a sea of flowers and prayer cards.
Devotion to Our Lady of Divine Providence originated in Italy, and was brought to Puerto Rico in the early 1850s by the Servite Fathers. She was declared the patroness of Puerto Rico by Pope Paul VI on November 19, 1969.
San Juan Bautista Parish was founded by parishioners of Puerto Rican heritage, and continues to support efforts to assist people in their homeland, said Father Luis Rodriguez, pastor. He said the parish has given financial support to help 16 churches there, and two, 52-foot trailers of goods to assist those still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria.
Father Rodriguez met Bishop Corrada del Rio through a classmate during a recent visit to Puerto Rico, and invited the bishop to the Marian celebration.
As part of the occasion, the parish acquired the statue of Our Lady of Providence, as well as a first-class relic of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez (1918-1963), the first Puerto Rican to be declared blessed. The relic will be enshrined in a niche in the church.
Following the celebration of Mass by Bishop Corrada del Rio, parishioners participated in a joyful Marian procession with the statue of Our Lady of Providence, walking the chilly streets of the neighborhood to Plaza San Juan, where a festive gathering with food and music continued into the night.
“This is a celebration of the crossroads of faith and culture, and a celebration of the leadership of the Spanish-speaking community,” Father Rodriguez said. “It’s a great way to celebrate that the Catholic Church is fully alive and joyful. We are taking the faith out into the streets, so people will see that San Juan Bautista Parish is here, and it’s alive.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness