Auxiliary Bishop Luis Miguel Romero Fernandez, M.Id., of the Diocese of Rockville Centre told the faithful at St. Patrick’s Cathedral that the Virgin Mary “guides us in this mission; wherever the Virgin Mary is, there is joy because the Lord is there – there is hope and protection.”
Bishop Romero served as principal celebrant and homilist, on Sunday, February 11, in the annual Mass in honor of Our Lady of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras. The afternoon liturgy attracted more than 800 people. It was conducted in Spanish and tinged with the Garifuna, one of many languages spoken in Honduras. (The Garifuna people are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry that originated on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent).
“My dear brothers and sisters, Que Viva Our Lady of Suyapa!” said Bishop Romero, born and raised in Spain, in opening remarks at the start of Mass. He was greeted with “Que Viva!” in return by the people, who loudly applauded.
Citing the importance of Hispanic Ministry, he noted that Pope John Paul II (now Saint Pope John Paul II) “said the hope of the Church was in Latin America.”
The bishop added that Latin America is “profoundly Christian and profoundly Marian.”
The Homily Message
Later during the homily, Bishop Romero spoke of the significance of Our Lady of Suyapa for the Honduran people, and how much the Virgin Mary is venerated under that title in the Central American country. “Our Lady of Suyapa puts profound roots in the faith of the Honduran community,” he asserted, noting also the importance of maintaining Christ-entered homes.
“This celebration, together with many other devotions (at the cathedral) to our only Mother in heaven – they adorn this symphony of unity in the evangelistic and Marian mission – walking together in communion and participation, guided by the Holy Spirit. Mary is the Mother of Divine Grace, counselor of the immigrants, and Queen of Peace.”
Bishop Romero talked about the importance of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season, “a time of conversion,” as well as Valentine’s Day, a “day of love, day of friendship.” He said despite cultural and racial differences, the children of God must treat one another based on the teachings of Christ, “doing everything for the glory of God…that is the mission of the apostle, which we all are through baptism.” He said we must “love God and love our neighbor, walking in hope.”
Idis Ordoñez, Mass attendee and procession participant told The Good Newsroom after Mass, “We come here every year to celebrate our virgin, Our Lady of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras…It was very beautiful – the bishop’s homily.”
Ordoñez, a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in the Bronx, added, “I was raised with the Catholic faith; it started with my grandmother who taught us how to make the sign of the cross…After one is baptized and receives First Communion, you continue to grow; and with a retreat, you are filled even more, and you discover day to day how important it is to serve in the Catholic Church.”
The entrance procession featured a decoratively encased figure of Our Lady of Suyapa, and women colorfully clad in traditional dress of the Garifuna people of Honduras. The Mass in honor of Our Lady of Suyapa is organized each year by the archdiocesan Our Lady of Suyapa Committee and the Office of Hispanic Ministry.
Bishop Romero is an Idente Missionary clergyman. He was appointed auxiliary bishop at Rockville Centre in March 2020 – and ordained to the priesthood in September 1981 in Tenerife, Spain. The Institute Id of Christ the Redeemer, Idente Missionaries, is a Catholic congregation founded by Fernando Rielo in 1959 on the island of Tenerife, Spain.
Our Lady of Suyapa
It is said that the story of Our Lady of Suyapa started in February 1747, when a local peasant, Alejandro Colindres, was on his way back to the village of Suyapa after a day of gathering corn. When evening fell, Alejandro decided to stay overnight near a ravine about halfway to Suyapa. While lying on the ground, he felt a hard object, possibly a stone, under him and tossed it away.
After laying down again, he discovered that the object had returned. He placed it in his bag and realized in the morning that the object was a small carved image of Our Lady, with her hands joined in prayer.
The image of Our Lady of Suyapa is carved from cedar wood, possibly done as a devotional item by an unknown, amateur artist. The first shrine of Our Lady of Suyapa was blessed in 1780, and the first notable, attested miracle occurred in 1796.
Our Lady of Suyapa was declared patroness of Honduras in 1925 by Pope Pius XI; her feast day is Feb. 3. The statue is currently located in the Basilica de Suyapa in Suyapa, a suburb of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. The sanctuary is spacious to allow for the multitude of pilgrims who visit it throughout each year.