By Daniel Esparza
A Mass honoring Our Lady of Altagracia, patron of the Dominican Republic, was celebrated at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Brownsville, Jan. 19.
Nearly 200 parishioners from the parish and the local Hispanic community participated in the Mass celebrated by Dominican-born Father Ambiorix de Jesús Osorio. Father Edward Mason, pastor of Our Lady of the Presentation-Our Lady of Mercy parish, concelebrated the Mass.
Members of the parish’s Altagraciano Committee were in charge of decorating the chapel in the colors of the Dominican flag – blue, white and red. They also organized a celebration after Mass with traditional food and music from the Dominican Republic.
Upon entering the chapel, attendees were given Dominican flags, prayer cards with the image and a prayer to Our Lady of Altagracia, and a small booklet with the lyrics of the opening and concluding hymns for this Marian feast, as well as the lyrics of the national Dominican anthem.
In his homily, Father Osorio stressed the importance of recognizing one’s own national and cultural identity, as well as of preserving and cultivating one’s own traditions, while respecting and valuing those of others.
In that sense, he invited the faithful to remember that regardless of their national, demographic or cultural origins, they all belong to the same community of believers: “Not only is Jesus is the Son of Mary, He himself has given us His own mother, so that she is also ours. And if we are all children of Mary, that means that we are all brothers. Our Lady of Altagracia is not only the protective mother of Dominicans. She is also the mother of all believers, and protector of all humanity.”
Father Osorio also described in detail the image of Our Lady of Altagracia, explaining its Christological, Mariological and ecclesiological content.
“In the image, the Child Jesus is lying in the manger, while Mary adores him. That Jesus is lying in the manger, the receptacle in which animals feed, reminds us that the Body of Christ is true food and His Blood is true drink. At the bottom of the image we see Joseph, who protects Jesus and Mary, as well as protects the whole church. We also see a ray of light to the right of Mary, which reminds us of the moment in which Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, at the moment of the Annunciation. The image of Our Lady of Altagracia is a unique compendium of Christian doctrine.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Father Mason thanked the Altagraciano Committee and invited attendees to the cultural dinner and celebration that followed.
“I know that there are not only Dominicans gathered here,” he said.
“Where are the Puerto Ricans? The Ecuadorians? The Colombians? The Hondurans? The Mexicans? It seems that the parish secretary and I are the only ‘gringos’ here,” said Father Mason, in Spanish, making the attendees laugh out loud.
“It is a source of joy that we are all gathered here to celebrate the feast of our mother. As Father Osorio said, the Virgin of Altagracia is the mother not only of the Dominicans, but of all of us. Our diversity is our strength, because it also allows us to find ourselves, as brothers, in the unity of the church.”