by ROWENA OREJANA
The Filipino community promoting the image of Our Lady of Penafrancia in Auckland will start to equally promote the devotion to the Divino Rostro (Divine Face of Jesus).
Our Lady of Penafrancia and the Divino Rostro are revered in the Bicolandia region of the Philippines. A fluvial parade for the Penafrancia attracts millions of people annually.
This year’s hermana mayor, or the head organiser for the feast, is Philippine honorary vice-consul Virginia Russell.
“The Filipino community chaplain, Fr Linus Miranda (MSP), noted that the celebrations here have somehow been more centred on Our Lady. He said one shouldn’t be more important than the other. So we are making an effort to promote more the devotion to the Divine Face,” she said.
The feasts of the two miraculous images will be celebrated with simultaneous novenas culminating in a Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, on September 20 at Our Lady of the
Assumption Church in Onehunga. The actual feast of the Divino Rostro is September 6 and Our Lady of Penafrancia’s feast is on September 20.
Secular group Uragonz, comprised of Filipino-Kiwis who are from the Bicol region or who identify with the Bicolanos, are also supporting the celebrations.
Uragonz president Rio Beltran said the normal practice in the Philippines is to celebrate the feasts together.
Mrs Russell said this year the Divino Rostro celebration will have its own hermano and hermana mayor, Romy and Fritzi Udanga.
Mrs Russell explained that it will be the couple’s responsibility to promote and coordinate activities relating to the devotion to the Divino Rostro for the year.
Mr Beltran said the group’s eventual goal is to hold a fluvial parade for the image, as they traditionally do in the Philippines and, more recently, in Sydney.
“We have been looking into that and trying to find a way to mount one safely. Safety is our paramount concern,” he said.
The core group promoting the devotion to the Lady has acquired another image that would “visit families that would like to host the statue”, said Mrs Russell.
She said because of the miracles attributed to prayers to Our Lady, there are more families asking to host the statue.
“The new statue would allow us to accommodate the increasing number of requests,” she said.
Mr Beltran said Fred and Mayette Villanueva, who first brought the devotion to Auckland, are still active in the core group as advisers.
“We are grateful that despite their busy schedules, they are still encouraging us to grow spiritually,” he said
by ROWENA OREJANA