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Brazilian community celebrates Our Lady of Aparecida in Falls Church

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Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the Mass for the 300th anniversary of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church Oct. 12. The music was in Portuguese.

The Mass was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Ministries and the Brazilian Catholic Community of the Diocese of Arlington.

The statue found by fishermen in 1717 was “a small, dark colored image of Our Lady with a smiling face, which they saw come out of the water as they drew in their nets that were subsequently filled with an extraordinarily abundant catch,” Pope John Paul II wrote in a 2004 letter.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge said it is a blessed time in Brazil and in the life of the church. He encouraged the congregation to acknowledge and reflect upon Mary as our queen, our mother and our intercessor.

“Mary is for us the queen of the universe, a queen of humility and love, a queen who unites us and protects us and watches over us,” said Bishop Burbidge. “And I think in Brazil, here in the United States and around the world, we need our queen more than ever because we are too divided and that is not the plan of her Son.”

Bishop Burbidge reminded the people that Jesus gave us His mother as our mother. “He gave us His mother as a source of consolation and comfort, someone always there in our time of need,” he said. “She leads us closer to her Son.”

With Mary as our intercessor, Bishop Burbidge said, if we follow the commands of Jesus then great miracles will be accomplished in our lives.

“Tonight, with renewed faith, affection and devotion, we honor Our Lady of Aparecida and we pray that we will come to know and to experience her as the queen, who unites us as brothers and sisters; as the mother who consoles and comforts us; and as the intercessor who pleads for us at the throne of her Son, who prays for us now and at the hour of our death.”

For an hour before Mass, the Brazilian Catholic Community recited the rosary in English and Portuguese.

The statue of Our Lady of Aparecida used at the Mass does not have a permanent location right now — it is kept at a different family's house on a rotating basis. Neusa Maria Medeiros said the community hopes to get a statue placed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. "We want people to know about her," she said.

Sonia Maria Grebogi attended the Mass with her three children to thank Our Lady of Aparecida “for the graces she has bestowed on me, my husband and our children,” she said. “I came here to be united in prayer with my family in Brazil especially with my parents whom so very much have thought me to love and honor Our Blessed Mother.”

Ricky Palacio said Mary’s apparitions bring people hope. “It is very important to honor her as the patroness of our country,” he said. “It is part of our culture that should be preserved.”

Donald Garcia is a member of the Brazilian Catholic Community. His wife, Teresinha, is Brazilian and he lived and worked in Brazil many years ago. He said the devotion to Our Lady of Aparecida is similar, though less intense, than the Mexican devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“I am pleased Bishop Burbidge is willing to reach out to this small community,” said Garcia. “Since the small Brazilian community began getting together to celebrate this feast, it is fortuitous he is celebrating with them at St Anthony’s.”


Medeiros said it was a dream come true to have Bishop Burbidge celebrate the Mass. "There is no better present for Our Lady than for Bishop Burbidge to celebrate the anniversary," she said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017