by the Rev. Ben Sanchez

“Si nosotros los hondureños, salimos de nuestra nación, llevamos tu nombre grabado muy dentro del corazón.” So goes the song to Our Lady of Suyapa sung by our congregation in the processional hymn. We commemorated the feast day of the Honduran patroness on February 6. For the Hondurans, the song’s lyrics, “If we Hondurans leave our country, we carry you engraved in our hearts,” speak of their undying devotion and love of the Virgin Mary.Each year, more than one million faithful gather to celebrate the Virgin of Suyapa at the Basílica of Our Lady of Suyapa, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

In St. Augustine’s we assembled to celebrate their heritage, friendships and remember their faithful patroness. Despite its small size, the fervor of the Honduran community was on display in commemoration of the Virgin’s feast day. It will become a tradition in our congregation beginning this year.The Virgin’s story originates in 1747, when a local peasant, Alejandro Colindres, returned from a day of harvesting corn. Returning to Suyapa, he stopped for the night alongside the road. Laying down he felt what he thought was a stone. It is said he hurled it a distance, but when he laid down again, there it was—not a stone, but the image of Our Lady carved onto a small piece of cedar wood less than 3” tall. She wore a light pink robe and dark cloak with stars and jewels. For the following 20 years, the image stood on an altar at Colindres’ home, and villagers would pray to her. Eventually, there were reports of miracles. After recovering from a painful kidney stone, Captain José Zelaya Midence built her a chapel, which cemented the devotion.

Placed on a pillar to the right of the altar at Mass at St. Augustine’s Parish, Our Lady was remembered through song, prayer, procession, dance folk, and later the sharing of food and fellowship. An estimated 65 people attended to partake in the celebration.

In his Sermon, Fr. Ben explains the importance Our Lady of Suyapa has in the national identity of the Honduran people because the history of Suyapa is intrinsic to the quotidian life of people at all levels as social, economic, political, and religious.For me, she increases my devotion because she is the mother of Our Savior. It brings me great joy to bring this tradition to my congregation of Saint Augustine’s because it is important to remember our roots. It fills me with emotion.