Diocesan News

A Brown Virgin Bridging Communities

Bishop Octavio Cisneros, center, surrounded by parishioners holding baby Jesus figures during a procession in celebration of “Día de la Candelaria,” or Candlemas Day, outside St. Mary’s Winfield, Woodside, Feb. 2. (Photo: Jazmin Rosa)

By Jazmin Rosa

WOODSIDE — Our Lady of Candelaria has made its way to Brooklyn and Queens. Parishioners of Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (St. Mary’s Winfield), Woodside, gathered on Sunday, Feb. 2, for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas, to show their devotion for the black madonna.

The church was filled beyond capacity for the special Mass, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros. Father Christopher O’Connor, the pastor, was a concelebrant.

“We bless the candles which are going to be used during the year to worship the almighty God and praise Jesus, who is the light of the world,” Bishop Cisneros said on the traditions surrounding the celebration. “What the people do to symbolize the time baby Jesus came into the temple and presented to Simeon, is they bring the baby Jesus from their home as a sort of reenactment,” he added.

During his homily, Bishop Cisneros highlighted the struggle of millions fleeing communism, dictatorship, and civil war to provide a better life for their children.

Referencing a story of a priest who had to bury the baby of a young couple traveling from Venezuela to Colombia, he likened the struggle of parenthood to the plight of Mary and Joseph, who said yes to accepting Jesus as their son.

“The message is there that whenever a child comes into the world, we don’t know what the future will be, we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “We realize we’re going to encounter sacrifices, problems, and difficulties.”

Father O’Connor remarked that the tradition of making Candelaria a big celebration in his parish was born out of necessity years ago. Feeling a sort of disconnection between the Spanish speaking ethnic groups, he sought a way to bring his parishioners closer together.

“Each country has its traditions and feast days, so I wanted to do Candelaria as a way of realizing that we’re all together in one faith,” Father O’Connor said.

Since the beginning of the celebrations for “Día de la Candelaria” at St. Mary’s Winfield, Father O’Connor has seen an increased engagement across the diverse Spanish speaking communities.

“Little by little, we’re seeing that we’re all together, and I think that this Mass has done it for this parish,” he said. “We’re bigger than our smaller communities.”