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Divino Rostro (Holy Face) and Our Lady of Peñafrancia devotees urged to stay faithful

By Rowena Orejana

The archbishop of an archdiocese that is home to one of the biggest devotions to the Blessed Mother in the Philippines has called on Kiwi-Filipino Catholics to remain strongly committed to their faith and be witnesses to God’s love in a largely secular society.

In his homily on February 12, Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tirona told Divino Rostro and Our Lady of Peñafrancia devotees that they “are in a privileged situation”. The archbishop concelebrated the Mass with Christchurch chaplain for the Filipino community, Fr Benito Velasco, at the St Benedict’s church, Newton, in Auckland.

Speaking in a mixture of Filipino and English, and peppered with a lot of Filipino humour, Archbishop Tirona noted that, in the Philippines, there are a lot of Catholic churches and religious activities – and that people take their faith for granted. “But when you are  in another country, the environment is different. Particularly, in a secular country, there are lots of challenges to your faith,” he said.

“Will you forget where you came from? Will you set aside your faith? Will you become absolutely liberal to fit in?” he asked. “You are in a privileged position to say, I firmly believe, and I will live according to the teachings of my Lord Jesus.”

Archbishop Tirona reminded everyone that  Jesus “is always with us and is always faithful to us”.

“[Jesus] is attentive not just to our needs, but to the very core of our being. He is attentive to our hearts,” he said. “When you let your hearts stay in the heart of Jesus, you will be more than safe, you will be saved. Safety is temporary, salvation is eternal. And that is what Jesus offers to us.”

Archbishop Tirona came to New Zealand on February 6 to visit his priests here. Fr. Velasco said there are currently four priests from the Caceres diocese in New Zealand, including himself.

(Photo: Archbishop Rolando Tirona with Divino Rostro (Divine Face) and Our Lady of Peñafrancia devotees in Auckland)

“Another two (priests) are coming [from] Caceres to serve in the Christchurch diocese,” he said. The Archdiocese of Caceres was founded in 1595 and is home to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, patroness of the Bicol region.

The Mass was added to the archbishop’s schedule to allow him to meet with the community in Auckland.

The devotion to Divino Rostro and Our Lady of Peñafrancia is growing in New Zealand as Filipinos from the region move to New Zealand.

Archbishop Tirona explained that the devotion does not mean adoration of the saints or of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “We do not adore, we venerate the Blessed Mother. She’s the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. And as a mother, she reminds us in Lourdes and in Fatima, to pray . . . pray the rosary and to sacrifice and to look after the poor, the sick and the lonely,” he said.

“Our devotion to them is a reminder to us that we have a greater calling: the call to holiness [and] the call to fulness of life,” he said.

(This article was first published NZ Catholic, a Catholic newspaper in New Zealand .)


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