An image of Mother Mary adorned with a shining gold dress and enveloped by yellow and white flowers, devoutly and endearingly called “Ina”, was lifted above the mass of Filipino devotees who came to Penrith on Saturday 19 September to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Australia.
The festivity is an avenue for devotees to seek blessings and graces for the poor and for personal intentions, following this year’s theme, “Living the Faith – Empowering the Poor”.
The Australian Devotees of Our Lady of Peñafrancia (ADOLP) was founded in 2005 by Jun Relunia, President, Neria Soliman, Vice President, and Josie Musa, Secretary, under the guidance of the Basilica in Naga City, Philippines, and the Filipino Chaplaincy of the Diocese of Parramatta.
The growing devotion to Ina started in 1434, when Simon Vela found an image of Our Lady in Peña de Francia in Salamanca, Spain. In 1710, the celebration was brought to the Philippines.
Millions turn out every year for the Marian Pilgrimage in Naga City to celebrate the Principal Patroness and Queen of Bicol, making it one of the biggest religious celebrations in the Philippines.
Solemn observance of the Feast Day at St Nicholas of Myra in Penrith began with the Holy Rosary, Novena to Divino Rostro, and Novena to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, followed by Mass, which was celebrated by Fr Mathew Antony MS and concelebrated with other priests from the Diocese.
A parade of colour pervaded the Church and later, the Nepean River, as followers cheered back and forth, “Viva La Virgen – Viva!” and proceeded to the Fluvial Procession. The image of Ina was hoisted onto a boat, decorated with banners, flowers, and orange material, and followed by devotees on the Nepean Belle.
The Procession was followed by lunch, with food stalls showcasing a great variety of Filipino/Bicolano dishes, the annual cake cutting, and entertainment.
Norma Evans, the treasurer for ADOLP, became a devotee after her mother’s miraculous experience with Our Lady of Peñafrancia.
“For a long time, my mother couldn’t lift both her arms, as they were paralysed. There was a procession and every time the people said, ‘Viva’, everybody lifted their hands. And my mother was doing it subconsciously, until she got home and said, ‘Look! I can raise my hands!’ This is why I am a firm believer that Our Lady of Peñafrancia is miraculous, but only if we believe, and I think my mother did with all her heart,” Norma reflected.
Devotees do not believe that the image of Ina and the Divino Rostro hold magical or divine powers, but they believe that it is a channel of God’s graces.
For more images of the event, please visit: www.flickr.com/parracatholic/albums
Watch the event on YouTube here: