With flowers, songs in Tagalog and prayers for peace, children and adults honored Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag May 3 at a monthly Filipino Mass at St. Patrick Church, Long Island City.
“We believe that the Blessed Mother is the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the mother of the Word incarnate and mother of the whole world,” said Corazon Cortez, parishioner and former coordinator of the Filipino ministry at St. Patrick.
“I am a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary since I was a little child. And I believe that whenever Mama Mary whispers something into the ear of the Holy Infant Jesus, He listens to her,” Cortez said.
Folk tradition says that many centuries ago, the Virgin Mary appeared in front of a middle-aged farmer in the Pangasinan province of the Philippines instructing him to build a church on a hill. The apparition and many miraculous signs started a devotion to the Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, otherwise known as Nuestra Señora de Manaoag.
In the 17th century, locals and tribes from the mountains resisted converting to Catholicism, resulting in Dominican friars spreading conversion by introducing Our Lady of Manaoag as a “powerful protectress” of the sick, helpless and needy. Since then, the Virgin Mary has been an instrument in fostering Filipino Catholic piety in that region.
The ivory image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag – which depicts the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus in her left arm and a Rosary in her right hand – is enshrined in the high altar of a church standing on a hilltop in Manaoag and is said to possess miraculous powers. The image was canonically crowned in 1926, meaning that the Vatican officially proclaimed that Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag had granted favors and blessings.
The town of Manaoag now receives thousands of pilgrims converging to attend Mass, pray the Rosary and offer flowers. The image is most visited during May and in October, when Mary is celebrated as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. Pope Francis gave Our Lady of Manaoag Church, which has been under the care of the Philippine Dominican province, the title of “minor basilica” in February.
Last Sunday’s Mass was celebrated by Father Ray Nacino, parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Snows, North Floral Park, and Msgr. Oscar Aquino, spiritual director for the San Lorenzo Ruiz and Scalabrini Center, Jamaica.
Before Mass, the congregation prayed the rosary and brought flowers to the replica of the image of Our Lady. Parishioners Edrex Mar Fontanilla and Nazareno Fontanilla, whose parents celebrated 40 years of marriage that day, led the act of consecration and prayer to Our Lady of Manaoag.
The Our Lady of Manaoag Society in America and the Filipino ministry of St. Patrick coordinated the event in an effort to celebrate the month of Mary and propagate Marian devotion. Nida Cortez, founding president of the society, said that Our Lady of Manaoag is to Filipinos what Our Lady of Guadalupe is to people in Mexico.
“She is the patron saint of the province of Pangasinan and also of Filipinos, especially for immigrants,” she said. “We are bringing Our Lady of Manaoag to different churches to encourage people to organize devotions to Our Lady in their parishes. … We wanted to evangelize.”
Following the Mass, members of the Filipino ministry carried the Virgin’s image to the basement of the church so the faithful could venerate her and take photos, while sharing in food and fellowship.
After the festivities, Father Nacino said that the purpose of this Marian celebration was to pray for peace through the intercession of the Virgin.
“Manaoag means ‘calling,’” he said. “I think the Blessed Mother is calling not only the Filipinos but all of us to become instruments of peace.”