Puerto Rican Christmas season begins with Mass in Meriden

MERIDEN — In Puerto Rico and beyond, November 18 marked the Feast of Our Lady of Divine Providence, or Nuestra Señora de la Divina Providencia, the patron saint of Puerto Rico.

To celebrate, parishioners at St. Rose of Lima Church at 35 Center St. held novenas throughout the week and held a mass in her honor last Friday. After mass, parishioners gathered in the community room to celebrate with music, dance, and traditional Puerto Rican food.

“This is to have a good time; we haven’t partyed in years,” said parishioner Amparo Villanova in her native Spanish. Like many in the Puerto Rican community that began coming to Meriden 50 years ago, Villanova is from Aguada and has been with the church since 1985.

Longtime event coordinator Julie Avilés explained that it was the first time food and drink had been a part of the celebration since the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that it was also the first time the Mass had been held on a weekday, as the celebration has been part of Sunday Mass in previous years.


Parishioner Zenaida Vásquez opened the Spanish Mass on Friday by reading a story of Our Lady of Divine Providence from the pulpit. According to the story in the Catholic tradition, Our Lady of Divine Providence helped Monsignor Gil Esteve Tomás rebuild the Puerto Rican church when he was appointed bishop in 1848.

In a decree signed on Nov. 19, 1969, Pope Paul VI declared Our Lady of Divine Providence patron saint of Puerto Rico, Vásquez read. This document also showed that her holiday would be moved to November 19, the same day that the controversial Italian explorer Christopher Columbus first landed on the island of Boriquen in 1493, he said.

“The intention is to unite the two great loves of Puerto Ricans: love for their beautiful island and love for the Mother of God,” Vásquez read.

After the initial procession with the portrait of Our Lady of Divine Providence and a scripture reading, the Rev. Jim Manship opened the homily by inviting the faithful to reflect on the indigenous peoples of the island and the ongoing struggle of Puerto Ricans. , especially from women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“God has always provided,” he said in Spanish. “We are the church. God has brought us into the world to take care of those who feel alone.

After the homily, ushers dressed in pavas, or typical Puerto Rican straw hats, collected the offering. Manship explained that the offering would be donated to the Chrysalis Center, a Hartford-based nonprofit that provides housing and can help clients through the process of obtaining job training and health care services by providing links to supports and resources. community.

Towards the end of the mass, couples of parishioners dressed in traditional Puerto Rican clothing approached a wreath on the steps of the altar with symbols of Puerto Rican heritage such as the rosary, the bible, the güiro, the cuatro, a wooden machete, yautía, cassava and plantains.

After communion, a procession of parishioners headed to the community hall across the street.

the beginning of christmas

Events Coordinator Elena Medina of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, has been a part of the Saint Rose community for the past 54 years. She explained that the celebration of the Mass on the 19th is the opening of the Puerto Rican Christmas season.

Medina also explained that the parishioners ate traditional Puerto Rican dishes and desserts donated by volunteers and a large cake decorated with the Puerto Rican flag and an image of Our Lady of Divine Providence.

“Rice, beans, and pork are traditional parts of Puerto Rican Christmas,” he said.

The Cardona family also played live carols, or traditional Christmas music, while parishioners danced and applauded. The mass of Our Lady of Divine Providence begins the Puerto Rican Christmas season, while, as Medina explained, the Mexican community celebrates novenas to the Virgin of Guadalupe, starting on December 3.

[email protected], Twitter: @lguzm_n

Latino community reporter Lau Guzmán is a staff member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. He supports RFA reporters at Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re. For more information on RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.

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