18th Penafrancia Fluvial Procession held in Austria

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Bicolanos and devotees in Austria commemorated on September 17, 2022, the annual fluvial procession on board MS Tegethoff, a passenger vessel, along the Danube River from Vienna, Austria, to Tulln, Lower Austria, in honor of their regional Patroness, Our Lady of Penafrancia.

The Bikol Society in Austria and the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy in Vienna are leading the celebration.

The almost three-hour early morning trip from the dock of the Schiffahrtszentrum in Vienna to the pier of Tulln, a province in the Lower Austrian region, is a re-creation of the Lady’s voyage from the Naga Cathedral, where the novena was held, back to her shrine at the Basilica Minore following the Naga River route. The devotees made a procession going to the church where a Holy Mass occurred.

As it is done in Naga, during the fluvial procession on the Danube River, the devotees on board MS Tegethoff prayed the rosary with the images of the Virgin of Peñafrancia and the Holy Face of Jesus Christ also on board.

Many Filipinos in Austria attest that the Nuestra Y Senora de Penafrancia has taken care of them and their loved ones back home.

“For me, it is already a panata” (pledge) to join the fluvial procession. “Melchora May, a devotee, said, “nothing would prevent me from joining the event.”

Almost all the devotees who joined the fluvial pilgrimage attributed their answered prayers to the intercession of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

“This is what we want …to have more people celebrating with us,” one of the organizers commented.

Gelene Blanco Mercado, who joined the fluvial procession, is curious to experience how the Bicolanos in Austria celebrate the fluvial procession.

“I am not from Bikol pero nasisiyahan ako na makasama ako sa prosesyon ng Penafrancia,”   she said.

“It is a grace and a blessing being a part of this significant occasion as Hermana mayor,” Lolit Vendivil Kaszuba, one of the Hermana Mayor, said. Malou Olea Guevarra is the other Hermana Mayor.

Holy Mass at the St. Stephans Church, Tulln

After an almost 15 minutes procession from the Ship’s Station, a Holy Mass was held at St. Stephan’s Church. Fr. Victor Tamayo had officiated this. Fr. Alvin Santillan delivered the sermon. Both priests are chaplains of the Filipino Catholic Community in Austria.

The pastor of the St. Maurice parish, Fr. Mag. Krzysztof Kowalski, welcomed the pilgrims.

The municipality’s mayor, Peter Eisenschenk, could not attend the celebration. On his behalf was City Councilor Mag. Franz Xaver Hebenstreit. He was delighted that the Filipinos opted to bring the image of the Lady of Penafrancia to Tulln.

“We are not only known as the garden city but the city of togetherness, which has become visible through you. You are here and celebrating the Holy Mass; one feels the heart’s warmth and friendship. I wish you a pleasant time in Tulln. It is an honor for us here in the locality to witness and celebrate this feast with you. Welcome to Tulln. Happy and meaningful celebration,” Hebenstreit said.

“Our Lady of Penafrancia was declared to be the patroness of Bicolandia. What is special about this feast is not only the Bicolanos who are celebrating her feast, but many of the Filipinos came to realize that the blessed mother under the title of our Lady of Penafrancia is a mighty intercessor,” Fr. Victor Tamayo said in his introductory message during the mass.

During the Mass, which was filled with beautiful and impressive music rendered by the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Choir led by Choirmaster Ms. Ophelia Magistrado, the ornately decorated statue of our Lady of  Peñafrancia rested next to the altar.

“Thank you to the Bikol Society in Austria; you have done an excellent job. I am sure you will do the same in the years ahead. I join you in your particular intentions, and please join me also to pray for my personal intentions – for the community here, for peace and prosperity for the Philippines and the world, “Charge d’Affaires Susan Irene Natividad said in her speech.

The Penafrancia Committee of the Bicol Society in Austria, under the leadership of Marizel Rojas, has been working with the Filipino Catholic community for a successful and meaningful Peñafrancia feast.

Rojas said that the consistent observance of this tradition in the Filipino community in Austria serves as a thread that binds the present generation of Filipinos to the past and ensures that they will inspire the faith and lives of the future generation. It also sustains and strengthens our good relations with the Filipino community.

 “We, the  Bikolanos in Austria, brought this religious devotion to Vienna because we want to become instruments of faith among our “kababayans.” We want to spread the devotion to INA, which has brought meaning to the lives of several Filipino Marian devotees in Austria,” the president of the Bikol society (Austria) added.

Also present were the leaders of the different Filipino communities.

History

The devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia remains strong among Bicolano communities in various parts of the country and abroad.

There are civic and religious organizations in the United States and Europe that continue to practice and promote devotion to the region’s patroness.

The first fluvial procession in Vienna happened in 2003. Since then, the Penafrancia fluvial parade has become a tradition among Austria’s Bikolanos and Marian devotees.

The Feast of Penafrancia originated in Bicol, and Bicolanos all over the world celebrate it with pride to pay homage to the Virgin Mary. In the Philippines, all roads and routes lead to Naga City in Camarines Sur, where millions of Bicolanos troops to the city in celebration of the miraculous patroness of their region. This has been part of Bicolano lore and legend through all these years. They say it would be an incomplete saga if there is no mention of the Virgin or Ina. The intense devotion to the Heavenly Mother leads all Bicolanos to the shouts of “Viva La Virgen” as they bow and kneel on the ground in prayer. The colorful floral procession carrying the Virgin slowly traverses the Bicol River in downtown Naga. The original image came from Peña de Francia in Salamanca, Spain.

Hector Pascua/pictures: Lolit Vendivil Kaszuba

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