By Marietha Góngora
Bishop Antonio Camilo González, bishop emeritus of La Vega, Dominican Republic, celebrated the diocesan Mass Jan. 21 in honor of Our Lady of Altagracia at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Prospect Heights.
Some 300 devotees from Brooklyn and Queens parishes participated in the Mass. Father Jason Espinal, director of the Dominican ministry, together with six other priests, concelebrated. Seven deacons assisted at the altar.
Before Mass, the faithful prayed the Rosary and there was a brief procession with the statue of the Virgin of Altagracia, accompanied by the Vatican, American and Dominican flags, as well as the banner of the Comité Altagraciano of the Brooklyn Diocese, the organizer of the celebration.
“I am so happy to be here for this celebration,” said Bishop González.
“I came from the Dominican Republic to accompany you during the novena and to celebrate this Mass, which is the final act of our celebrations for the feast of Our Lady of Altagracia.”
“We have to trust God is always with us to protect us, and we also have to trust in the constant intercession of our loving mother, the mother of Jesus, Our Lady of Altagracia,” the bishop said.
He quoted the 19th century archbishop who also served as the president of the Dominican Republic, Fernando Arturo de Meriño, who said “in the heart of each Dominican, there is an altar to Our Lady of Altagracia.”
“The Kingdom of God is not a place but a life experience aligned to God’s loving plan for each of us; a plan based on love, hope and faith,” said Bishop González.
Talking about vocations to the priesthood, he invited the faithful to pray “for the young so their parents, fulfilling their duty, help them discover their own vocation to serve their brothers and sisters. We have to remember that our life should be dedicated to serving our neighbors and God, following the example of Mary.”
After Mass, María Rosario, president of the Comité Altagraciano, thanked Bishop González as well as the priests and deacons for their presence. She also paid tribute to the members of the Comité Altagraciano, the Knights of Columbus, and the Gethsemane Choir and its director, Arelis Corona, for their contributions to the celebration.
“The Dominicans are a people of profound faith. They expressed it today with their singing and their joy, but they also show it in difficult times, when they come together to put their trust in God through the intersession of the Virgin Mary,” said Father Espinal.