Every year, the Diocese’s Office of Hispanic Affairs sets up a Día de los Muertos altar (or ofrenda, in Spanish) in the Diocesan Pastoral Center (DPC) in honor of those who have died.
Día de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican celebration that occurs every year on Nov. 1-2, in conjunction with All Souls’ Day. During Día de los Muertos, Mexicans celebrate those who have passed away by setting up ofrendas decorated with photos of their loved ones, candles and cempasúchil flowers (marigolds).
The celebration often takes a joyful tone, with colorful, decorated skulls being one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday. The skulls remind us of the souls of the dead, and the vibrancy of the skulls is meant to be a celebration of the person’s life.
In light of the impact of COVID-19, the Office of Hispanic Affairs decided to rethink the design of this year’s DPC ofrenda. The centerpiece of the ofrenda is a large white ladder that points vertically, symbolizing the dead going up to heaven. White crosses are attached to the ladder, with each cross containing some of the names of those who served at parish ministries who have died of COVID-19.
“We want to create a spiritual image of what has been a staggering devastation in families and communities due to the coronavirus ... COVID has profoundly impacted our community, and we still feel like we are in a boat that is passing through a storm,” said Petra Alexander, Director of the Office of Hispanic Affairs.
“It is right to remember them in our prayers, to give thanks for the gifts that they brought to our ministry groups,” said Alexander.
The ofrenda also contains some of the more traditional decorations of Día de los Muertos, including candles, flowers and skulls. “The ofrendas for Día de los Muertos are surrounded by lights and flowers, reminding us of our faith that never dies, even though our earthly life comes to an end, and of the beauty of a life that has not been extinguished but transformed. The cempasúchil flowers represent the color of the sun, like flames that give off their perfume and beauty on the difficult path of life,” said Alexander.
While COVID-19 has been very difficult, particularly for the Hispanic community, Alexander hopes that the diocesan ofrenda portrays the Christian belief that death is not the end. “We believe in Christ, and taking his hand, we go up that ladder that leads us to the transformation of our lives and to a joy that will have no end,” said Alexander.
Names included on the DPC altar: Dcn. Baltazar Aguirre, Leticia Avila, Leticia Beltrán, Antonio Bernabé, Domingo Blas, Martha Castillo, Mauricio Centeno, Adam Chavez, Joaquín Covarrubias, Maria Estrella, Francisco González, Alberto Gutierrez, Martha Hong, Fr. Dennis Nobleza, Lalo Ramírez, Víctor Reyes, Teodora Rodríguez, Fr. Francisco Valdovinos S.T., Fr. John Vieira, Sr. Cathy White S.P., Artemio Zepeda, Mercedes Zuno and Alfredo Zuno.