With jubilance, reverence and faith, more than 1,200 Latino faithful, most originally from the Dominican Republic, celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Altagracia, the protectress of the small Caribbean nation.
The 46th annual archdiocesan Mass for Our Lady of Altagracia was offered Jan. 13 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Spanish liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Francisco Ozoria Acosta, of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, who also delivered the homily. The main concelebrant was retired Auxiliary Bishop Josu Iriondo, the former vicar for Hispanic ministry. The feast day is Jan. 21, a public holiday in the Dominican Republic.
“I am Dominicana, and for me, she is the mother our people,” Tersida De la Rosa, 70, a parishioner at St. Martin of Tours in the Bronx, told CNY after the Mass. “And she is the mother of God—Mary intercedes for us before the Lord; this is something that is very important.”
Ms. De la Rosa, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, noted that her Catholic faith has provided spiritual strength for her family through faith formation—in times of joy and sorrow, during illnesses and when all are healthy.
Archbishop Ozoria Acosta, in his homily, reflected on the words of Pope Francis, who has said that we are not orphans, we all have Mother Mary. And the archbishop mentioned the deep devotion St. Pope John Paul II held for Mary.
“How good this is that we all here as a family—the family of God, the Dominican family,” the archbishop said. “Each time I’ve come here, and I’ve done this several times, I feel very good with all of you, celebrating this Mass for Our Lady of Altagracia...What a joy it is congregating here in this beautiful cathedral called St. Patrick’s.”
The archbishop added that he and other clergy of the Dominican Republic are always attentive of the pastoral needs of fellow Dominicans now residing in the United States. He noted the difference between Marian devotion and Marian spirituality. “The Marian devotion is a relationship of affection, love and mercy. We do this through prayer, the rosary, and devotion; this helps people of sincerity live their faith,” Archbishop Ozoria Acosta said.
As for Marian spirituality, he said, “It is a step further in our relationship with Mary. The Spirit guides us into identify with Mary in her attitudes. Mary obeys God—to believe in God is to obey God. It is an example to imitate…She is a collaborator with God in the Lord’s plan for the salvation of humanity; though she did not understand (the Angel Gabriel’s message), she accepted the Lord.”
Emmanuel Acosta, 34, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in the Highbridge section of the Bronx, told CNY before Mass that he prays for his native land. “There are many things that have improved, but also many things that still need improvement—socially, politically and economically…There are things that can be better, for the present and the future. There needs to be more investment in education.
“I am Catholic since birth. I profess the Catholic faith,” Acosta said. “I am firm in my belief in Jesus Christ, attending Mass is very important, and Our Lady of Altagracia is the patroness of the people of the Dominican Republic. Here we have the Dominican community united in our faith.”
The entrance procession featured nearly 20 priests, including Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of the cathedral, members of the archdiocesan Our Lady of Altagracia Committee and boys clad in baseball uniforms; the sport is popular in the Dominican Republic.
Among the elected officials and dignitaries attending the Mass were U.S. Rep. Adriano Espalliat (D-NY), New York City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez and Carlos Castillo, consul general of the Dominican Republic in New York City.