Our Lady of Peñafrancia celebrated in Western Sydney

By Mary Brazell, 9 October 2019
Bishop Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta, celebrates Mass during the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Penafrancia at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

 

Viva la Virgen!

Wearing yellow shirts and waving white handkerchiefs, members of the Filipino Catholic Community in Western Sydney celebrated Mother Mary during the annual Feast Day of Our Lady of Peñafrancia on Saturday 21 September.

Our Lady of Peñafrancia, who is lovingly referred to as Ina, meaning mother in a local dialect, is the patroness of Naga City in the Bicol region of the Philippines. Our Lady of Peñafrancia, an statue of Mother Mary, is adorned with a shining gold dress and is surrounded by yellow and white flowers.

View images from the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Peñafrancia here or below.

Ina has been honoured and celebrated in Australia for 13 years, with thanks to the Australian Devotees of Our Lady of Our Lady of Peñafrancia (ADOLP), the Filipino Chaplaincy of the Diocese of Parramatta and is under the spiritual guidance of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City.

A statue of Our Lady of Penafrancia during the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Penafrancia at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

“Our celebrations coincide with other festivities held in Naga City, where thousands of people celebrate every year on the third Saturday of September,” Jun Relunia, adviser to ADOLP, and parishioner of St Nicholas of Myra, told Catholic Outlook.

“The Mass is very important on the feast day, so we are always encouraging devotees to go to Mass first,” he said.

The celebrations began at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith, with the Holy Rosary, Novena to Divino Rostro and Novena to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, followed by Mass celebrated by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta.

Concelebrants included Fr Jobi Payyappilly, Assistant Priest and Fr Sayed Kozhaya, Priest in Assistance, St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Fr John-Paul Escarlan from Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, and Fr Dado Haber, Chaplain to Blacktown Hospital. Members of the Filipino Chaplaincy served as acolytes and altar servers and performed in the choir.

Bishop Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta, celebrates Mass during the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Penafrancia at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

During his homily, Bishop Vincent said that the devotees should look to Mary as a model disciple, and praised the community for their contribution to the Church through their devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

“As we honour Mary, we look to her as a model disciple and follow her example of faithful discipleship. Mary, as presented to us in the Gospel, was anything but a fearful, uncommitted and indifferent person. She did not stay in her comfortable environment, just as her Son did not stay in his comfortable environment. She made a constant journey into the unknown and surrendered herself to God’s unexpected ways and every twist and every turn of her life.

“As we honour Our Lady of Peñafrancia at this annual fiesta, let us strive to imitate her example of constantly discerning and doing God’s will for us.

“I’m grateful for the way that you contribute to the church, to the Diocese of Parramatta. Here, we are greatly enriched by your presence, dedication, generosity and active participation in all aspects of the life of the Church.

“We pray that you may continue to foster and deepen your Catholic faith, deeply embedded into your culture, and indeed, deeply ingrained in almost every Filipino. May the example of Mary inspire us to follow the humble footsteps of the servant Master. May our faith grow beyond all our human limitations, and like St Matthew the Evangelist, the Apostle, the sinner-turned saint, we may become humble instruments of God for others.”

At the conclusion of Mass, many members of the community embraced the statue, and a banner containing the image of the Divino Rostro (the Divine Face), before proceeding to the Nepean River for a fluvial procession.

Fr Jobi Payyappilly and Deacon Willy Limjap take part in a fluvial procession during the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Penafrancia in Penrith. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

Fr Jobi and Deacon Willy Limjap from St Nicholas of Myra joined the statue of Ina and the Divino Rostro on a boat decorated with banners, flowers and the national flags of Australia and the Philippines, as devotees processed along the river. The sounds of the humble rosary interspersed with boisterous cheers of “Viva la Virgen – Viva!”.

The procession was followed by lunch at Tench Reserve which showcased a variety of Filipino and Bicolano dishes, a cake-cutting ceremony and entertainment.

Ezzedin Tago, the Philippine Consul General in Sydney, spoke to devotees at the celebrations, congratulating them and saying it was an honour to be with them.

Devotees during the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Penafrancia. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

Jun said that this year’s festivities were “very successful.”

“The number of devotees is growing in number every year, and it is not just the Filipino community that celebrate, but members of the St Nicholas [of Myra] parish as well as other groups.

“I appreciated that Bishop Vincent was able to celebrate Mass with us, and I also appreciate the involvement of the Filipino Chaplaincy in the Diocese of Parramatta, who support us in our devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

“I would to see that the devotion to Our Lady is not exclusive to the Filipino community, but to everyone. Devotion to Our Lady is universal, and should be inclusive, so I hope that all who believe in Jesus Christ and all who have Marian devotion take part in our celebrations,” he added.

A devotee embraces a statue of Our Lady of Penafrancia during the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Penafrancia at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

Deacon Willy told Catholic Outlook, “I think that the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is a very cultural way of expressing devotion to our Mother Mary. The river fluvial procession and further celebrations at the Nepean River and grounds try to replicate the many days of celebration in Naga City in the Bicol region of the Philippines.

“This devotion has indeed come a long way in terms of propagation of the devotion to Our Lady, whom the Filipinos refer to as Ina, meaning mother,” he said.

A triduum of novenas and a Mass to Ina were celebrated in the three weeks prior to the feast day at St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill, St Michael’s Church, part of the Parish of Baulkham Hills, and St Patrick’s Church, part of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown.

View images from the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Peñafrancia here or below.

Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia (21.09.2019)

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