Virgin Mary“Anyone who desires to get close to Jesus should consider looking first to see His Mother. She is our prime mediator and intercessor. Her son Jesus has always a listening ear to her prayers whenever people ask His Mother for help in time of great need.”

This was the central message of the homily delivered by Msgr. John Vargas during a mass that capped the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady Penafrancia last Sept. 20 at the Thelma Spencer Park in Rochester.

Monsignor Vargas said, “We always end our prayers to the Blessed Trinity and our devotion to the Blessed Mother with the words, ‘to Jesus through Mary.’ What this means is that without Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan for her to be the Mother of His Son Jesus, we would never have Jesus as our Redeemer. In the mind of God, Jesus was to be born of a sinless virgin, and that unique privilege was assumed by our Blessed Mother.”

Father Vargas, a Bicolano who hails from Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, also said, “We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia with a solemn fluvial procession of the image of Our Blessed Mother. We honor her with songs and proclaim her with praise of ‘Viva la Virgen, Viva Our Lady of Penafrancia. We should be grateful to Mary for her faithful obedience to God’s plan for her to be the Mother of His Son Jesus.”

Hosted by the Lady of Penafrancia group, the Penafrancia festival in Michigan was celebrated last Sept. 20 for the 16th consecutive year. The celebration drew at least 200 devotees.

Dr. Mila Flores, a member of the group’s board of directors, said that since the celebration started in 1999, the religious event has always been held at the Thelma Spencer Lake.

She recalled that there were cases of drowning deaths in the lake in the past, but since the late Cardinal Jose Sanchez of Bicol blessed the lake, no more drowning death happened. This was considered a miracle.

The feast of the Lady of Penafrancia, who is the patroness of Bicol, is celebrated every year with a grand fluvial parade in Naga City. The celebration of the feast is replicated in foreign countries where there are Bicolanos.

Doctor Flores said that aside from Michigan, the yearly celebration is also held in other American states. Among these states are California, New Jersey, Illinois (Chicago) and Virginia. It is likewise celebrated in Toronto, Canada.

Here in Michigan, Flores said, the preparation for the celebration starts as early as July. The choir has to be formed and has to practice for several weeks, she said.

The food served after the mass is contributed by the devotees to the Lady of Penafrancia and the Lady of Penafrancia group.