At the 40th annual Our Lady of Providence Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen told the faithful, “We must give of ourselves in our daily life. Such is the example of the Mother of Jesus, Our Lady of Providence.”
"We celebrate today the great gift of Our Lady of Providence; she is with us at the center of our faith,” said Bishop Whalen in his welcoming remarks. “We need the help of the Virgin Mary during these days that are difficult for us and all the world,” His words came as spikes and surges of the coronavirus continued to be reported throughout the Northeast and most of the United States.
“And so we celebrate today the reality of the faith; we celebrate today with unity in the faith,” the bishop said. Our Lady of Providence is the patroness of Puerto Rico. About 230 people attended the Nov. 15 Spanish-language Mass, wearing safety masks with social distancing guided by ushers.
During his homily, the bishop noted the significance of relying on the Providence of the Lord and the prayers of Blessed Mother Mary in overcoming distress that stems from personal challenges, societal problems and the pandemic crisis. “We must follow the example of the Virgin Mary in accepting this great gift of Providence,” he said.
Bishop Whalen thanked his concelebrants and members of the archdiocesan Our Lady of Providence Committee. “We are united,” he said. “Amid the difficulties of the world, we must realize during these difficult days the presence of the Lord in each of us. This is centralized in our faith, with all the difficulties, with all the goals in our lives and with the reality of sin in the world.”
He spoke of the importance of the gifts from God, “the gift of our heart, the gift of our soul, our families and communities…”
“We are created in the image of God. We must give of ourselves in our daily life; such is the example of the Mother of Jesus, Our Lady of Providence. The Lord is always with us, especially during moments of difficulty. The answer from Mary is always, ‘Yes,’ such as during the Annunciation.
“With the gift of faith and the heart of Mary you can say, ‘Yes, Lord.’ And this for us is the reality of Providence. We can say yes to God in every moment of our lives.”
He noted the dire health and economic problems associated with the Covid-19 crisis, and he cited the importance of maintaining trust in God, the Providence of the Lord, and seeking the intercession of Mary.
Stephanie Santos, 29, was among the faithful attending the Mass. Born in Manhattan, she is of Puerto Rican descent on her mother's side and Dominican descent on her father's.
"I am here because it has been a family tradition; we honor the Virgin Mary,” Ms. Santos told Catholic New York before the Mass. "Praying the Rosary has helped us a great deal. Our Catholic faith is very important to us.” She is a parishioner at St. Rita of Cascia and St. Pius V in the Bronx.
Ms. Santos said she missed being present for Mass during the pandemic lockdown, adding, “We should all have more faith at this time; we should continue to pray.”
Juan Sotomayor, liturgical coordinator of the archdiocesan Our Lady of Providence Committee, said he appreciated the message Bishop Whalen conveyed of being steadfast in faith in God joined with the cultural and faith-filled tradition of celebrating Our Lady of Providence.
"This is a special year for us; it is the 40th annual Our Lady of Providence Mass here in the cathedral,” Sotomayor told CNY after Mass. “Because of Covid we thought we may not be able to have this Mass. But thanks to God we were able to reunite here today as we have done every year for the past 40 years. Our Lady of Providence is the focal point, the center of the Puerto Rican family.”
The Mass committee worked in conjunction with the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry. Samarie Alicea-Feulien, music director at St. Paul and Holy Rosary parish in East Harlem, served as cantor. The hymns she sang included “Ave Maria.”
Bishop Whalen was assisted by six concelebrants, including Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of the cathedral, and Father Eric Cruz, Bronx regional director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities and chaplain of the Our Lady of Providence Committee.
In remarks near the end of Mass, Father Cruz, a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican ancestry, expressed gratitude to Cardinal Dolan for his permission to proceed with the Mass despite the Covid-19 crisis. He also thanked Bishop Whalen for serving as principal celebrant and homilist, as well as his fellow concelebrants, committee members and the faithful in the pews.
“And thanks be to God for Our Lady of Providence!” shouted Father Cruz. The exclamation was greeted with loud applause. He said the Mass was dedicated to all Covid-19 victims, the sick and the dead, and to all sons and daughters of Puerto Rico.