Published October 20, 2005
Sarong Bangui of Georgia and the Filipino-American community celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia (revered as “Ina,” which means “Mother” in the Philippines) on Sept. 17. Traditionally, the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on the third Saturday of September, following a nine-day novena to the Blessed Mother.
With respect for this long-held Filipino tradition, the Filipino-American community, “bicolanos,” and friends gathered together to pay respect and celebrate in this daylong celebration with religious and cultural activities at Lake Lanier.
The festivity started with the final day of novena prayers, followed by the traditional fluvial procession in which the statue of Our Lady was paraded on a boat with the men while the women prayed the rosary. A celebration of the Mass followed, during which the group honored Our Lady of Peñafrancia and made some special prayers for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Father Peter James Alindogan celebrated the Mass. He is a Filipino priest from Sorsogon who currently serves as a parochial vicar at St. Barnabas Church, Bayville, N.J., in the Diocese of Trenton.
After Mass was the feast—a real barrio fiesta with sumptuous Filipino delicacies—and a program of entertainment.
In the days following Peñafrancia, the statue of Our Lady will move from house to house among the families in the group, remaining in each home a week at a time for a special devotion.
The origin of the name Our Lady of Peñafrancia (which means, literally, rocky hill of France) started when a French friar, Simon Roland, found an icon in 1434 believed to have been buried many years earlier, in 711. The image of Mary was excavated in a cave on a rocky (peña in Spanish) mountain along the French Way near the village of San Martin de Castanar, Salamanca, Spain. Peñafrancia is a version of Pena de Francia, designating the place where the precious icon was found.
Devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia began in the Philippines in the 17th century when the Covarrubias family, natives of San Martin de Castanar, moved to Cavite in the Phillipines. A son in the family, Miguel Robles, who was a seminarian studying in Manila, became very ill, and he prayed to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, whose picture he held to him, to spare his life, making a vow to build a chapel if his prayers were answered. He was miraculously cured and later ordained a priest in the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (now known as Naga City). To fulfill his vow, Padre Miguel, the first diocesan priest ordained in Naga, was instrumental in getting a chapel constructed by the bank of the Bikol River in Naga. He also commissioned an artist to carve an image patterned after the picture of Our Lady he kept with him always. Because of the miracles that occurred afterwards, devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia spread throughout the world.
The Filipino community of the Archdiocese of Atlanta gathers each month for Mass and fellowship. The next Mass is scheduled for Nov. 5 at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, at 2 p.m. Father Jed Sumampong, pastor of St. Paul’s, will preside.
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