20th Peñafrancia Fluvial Procession held in Austria

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Bicolanos and devotees in Austria commemorated on September 16, 2023, the annual fluvial procession on board MS Tegethoff, a passenger’s vessel, along the Danube River from Vienna, Austria, to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, in honour of their regional Patroness, Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

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

The almost six-hour early morning trip from the dock of the Schiffahrtszentrum in Vienna to the pier of Bratislava 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 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 dePeñafrancia has taken care of them and their loved ones back home.

“For me, it is already a panata” (pledge) to join the fluvial procession. Nothing would prevent me from joining the event, “one procession participant commented.

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

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

“Kinalakihan ko ito. Ang mga magulang ko ay deboto ng penfrancia at natuwa kami ng maumpisahan din ang debosyon dito sa Vienna. So this is a celebration away from home. So parang nasa bayan na rin din tayo nito,” Romy Molina, a Filipino community leader in Austria said.

“It is a grace and a blessing to be a part of this significant occasion as Hermana mayor. It is not only a responsibility but also a vocation. We are told to proclaim the good news of the Lord through this pilgrimage,” Lolit Vendibil Kaszuba, this year’s Hermana Mayor, said.

The Philippine Ambassador to Austria, Ambassador Lourdes Arroyo-Bernas, likewise joined the Fluvial procession. Bernas is happy to participate in the celebration since it is her first time attending such a pilgrimage.

“Napakasaya po ako na pinapatuloy nila ang tradisyon na may fluvial parade dito sa Vienna. Actually ito po ang pinakaunang Penafrancia na  napuntahan ko kasi sa Pilipinas hindi ko pa napuntahan. Napakasuwerte ko dahil dito pa sa Vienna. I am so proud of the Filipino community and we are very happy that we have also Filipinos from other European countries joining the celebration.  It is such a good tradition to come together to pray for each other,” Ambassador Lourdes A. Bernas said.

Holy Mass at St. Martin’s Cathedral in Bratislava

After an almost 15-minute procession from the Bratislava Ship’s Station, a Holy Mass was held at St. Martin’s Church. This had been officiated by visiting Philippine priest Fr. Ronald Masilang, together with the chaplains of the Filipino Catholic Community in Austria.

In his sermon, Fr. Jovic Lobrigo, a visiting priest from Naga, explained the importance of devotion to our Lady of Penafrancia.

“As we once again celebrate the feast of our blessed mother, let us not forget that she is bringing us the face of Jesus so that our crosses will be lightened and our petitions be answered according to his will,” Fr. Jovic Lobrigo said.

The solemn celebration of the Holy Mass was musically accompanied by the Our Lady of Penafrncia Choir.

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 in 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.

Civic and religious organizations in the United States and Europe 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 worldwide 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 go to celebrate the miraculous patroness of their region.  This has been part of Bicolano lore and legend throughout all these years.  They claimed the saga would be lacking without mentioning the Virgin or Ina. The intense devotion to the Heavenly Mother leads all Bicolanos to shout “Viva La Virgen” as they bow “and kneel on the ground in prayer.  The colourful loral 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: Llit Vendivil Kaszuba and Mandy Salonga
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