By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 8, 2012
A 13th-century devotion that started in Italy came to be the patroness of Puerto Rico when a new bishop arrived to find the Catholic Church on the island in disarray.
The islands were placed in the care of Our Lady of the Divine Providence after a newly appointed bishop from Spain brought the devotion. Bishop Gil E. Tomas was a native of the Catalonia region of Spain, where a popular shrine had been built and he brought that spirituality with him.
Some 800 years later, the affection for the Blessed Mother will be apparent as the Puerto Rican community and others at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, celebrate this feast.
“It should be important to everybody, no matter the nationality, because she is the mother of our Lord. She always hears our calls,” said Haydee Santiago, a coordinator of the annual event.
More than 250 people are expected for the festivities on Sunday, Nov. 11, starting with the 12:30 p.m. Spanish Mass, followed by food and entertainment in the parish hall. All are encouraged to come to this religious and cultural event.
There will be typical island food, like “arroz gandules,” rice with pigeon peas, and “guineitos en escabeche,” green bananas cooked with onions, peppers, olives.
The original image of Our Lady of the Divine Providence was an oil painting. The Virgin Mary cradles a sleeping infant Jesus, while she looks at him and gently holds his hand.
Pope Paul VI in 1969, declared Our Lady Mother of Divine Providence the principal patroness of Puerto Rico. It also decreed that the Virgin’s solemnity be transferred from Jan. 2 to Nov. 19, the day that the island was discovered. The intention was to join the two celebrations of the Puerto Ricans: love of their gorgeous island and love for the Mother of God, according to the University of Dayton’s Marian Library/Marian Research Institute.
Santiago said the celebration is always a big holiday in her native country.
“We love Our Lady of Divine Providence. It is an honor for us to celebrate the feast,” she said. “We always venerate our Blessed Mother.” She said many people ask the Virgin Mary to intercede to help protect the island from disasters.
Our Lady of Divine Providence Patroness of Puerto Rico
- The image called Our Lady of the Divine Providence, venerated by religious orders and saints, was an oil painting of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus sleeping in her arms.
- The title “Of Divine Providence” has been attributed to St. Philip Benicio, the fifth superior of the Servants of Mary. On a day when the friars had nothing to eat, they prayed and asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Friars found at the door of their convent two baskets of food. The oldest carving of the image dates to 1853.
- The feast is Nov. 19.