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December 27, 2021, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – During the time of year that focuses on the birth of Jesus, Sister Carol Gross, OP, gave a live stream presentation on a central figure of the nativity: Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother.
Sister Carol’s talk, “Devotion to Mary in Latin America,” was presented on December 9, 2021, the day after the patronal feast of the United States, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and three days before the December 12 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is especially revered in Mexico and by many Hispanic people in the United States.
The talk was part of a series of presentations organized by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee. Sister Carol spoke from her home in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Sister Carol described in general the Marian piety of many of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean – a popular piety involving the heart. In times of need, she said, this devotion to Mary “soothes pain and strengthens hope – the loving, healing, consoling power of God or God’s mother, who is the stand-in for God at the center of Latin American culture.”
Throughout the centuries, Sister Carol said, Mary has appeared to suffering people in a variety of images – suited to the people of a particular culture to help them to understand God’s love for them. “Myths and legends attributed to an icon of Mary speak to the needs of the people,” she explained.
Sister Carol highlighted a number of images of Mary that are popular in various parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Our Lady of Altagracia (“high grace”) is the cultural image of Mary in the Dominican Republic. She is known as the Protectress of the Dominican Republic, Sister Carol added. The image was originally brought home by a merchant to his daughter in the Dominican Republic. A basilica now houses the image, and about 8,000 people visit the basilica every year. On January 21, the Feast of Our Lady of Altagracia, people who cannot visit the basilica take part in Masses, novenas, and processions at their home parishes.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mary appeared as a pregnant Aztec woman in 1531 to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec who had converted to the Catholic faith, at Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. Because of her appearance, Sister Carol said, “The native people of Mexico began to recognize the Catholic faith. They say, ‘This virgin looks like us. She is ours and we are hers.’” The Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe “is our mother,” Sister Carol said. “As a mother she understands, relates, protects, listens, comforts.”
The Immaculate Conception: Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the Patroness of the United States and of other countries, such as Nicaragua, who revere her as La Purisima, the most pure one, Sister Carol said. At sundown on December 7, the eve of the feast, people in Nicaragua “flood into the streets in groups, singing hymns to La Purisima,” Sister Carol said. The feast refers to Mary’s conception without original sin, not to the conception of Jesus.
Learn more about various Marian devotions in Latin America in the recording of Sister Carol’s presentation, found below.
January 31, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – During the January 28, 2020, liturgy for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas – a Dominican scholar, writer, and Doctor of the Church – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Co-workers in St. Catherine Chapel heard the call to continue to preach the Word of God in a troubled world. They were challenged by a brother Dominican, Bishop José Raul Vera López, OP, Bishop of the Diocese of Saltillo/Monterey in Mexico.
Bishop Vera has extensive experience in ministering in a world of trouble and violence. He was Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, in 1994 during the Zapatista resistance. That year, indigenous people of Mexico fought the government for their basic rights for everything from land, work, and housing to education and independence.
“Bishop Vera is known for his courageous pastoral support of the indigenous peoples of his diocese,” Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, explained. “He remains an outspoken advocate for the human rights of migrants and asylees remaining on the Mexican side of the border.”
Bishop Vera came to Adrian to visit his friend, Sister Pauline Quinn, OP, who years ago made private vows as a Dominican Sister and has been living at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian with her service dog, Pax. Her varied ministries included working with Bishop Vera and organizing and promoting a program in which prison inmates are trained to take part in the early training of service dogs.
During his homily – preached in Spanish and translated by Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor – Bishop Vera encouraged the Sisters and Co-workers to continue to preach the Word of God, following the examples of St. Thomas Aquinas and Sister Pauline.
“Today, on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, remember that St. Thomas did not leave the Word of God to himself,” Bishop Vera said. “He preached with great passion from his great knowledge and his understanding of what the Word of God was for him. … St. Thomas abandoned himself to the Word of God, but he not only abandoned it in study and understanding, but he lived the Word of the Lord.”
Bishop Vera held up Sister Pauline as another example of a Dominican who preached with her life and her connection to other people, as well as her words. “I have seen Sister Pauline working very closely with me for many years, and it has been just a marvel to see all that she was able to do,” Bishop Vera said. “Sister Pauline was with the indigenous people and it was very, very dangerous at the time – and scary.”
Bishop Vera noted the many challenges and difficulties facing the world today. “The Church needs to respond to the Word of God and to all of these challenges with great passion,” he said. “All of us are called to preach the Word of God to all men and women, wherever they are.”.
Feature photo: Bishop Raul Vera, OP, preaches during the January 28, 2020, Mass celebrating the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor, stands ready to translate his homily from Spanish to English.