“Even though we may not still be in our country, we continue this tradition for our children and so that He will be in our hearts,” said Patty Ordonez, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Ordonez remembers her parents introducing her to the devotion to the Christ of Esquipulas as a child. She has continued to be inspired by the image and is involved in her parish in response.
“It has helped me in my faith, to know him,” Ordonez said.
In his homily, Bishop Barnes applauded those gathered for their strong faith and encouraged them to share their faith with their children and their community.
“For our Guatemalan brothers and sisters, the image of Christ of Esquipulas is something that is imprinted in their heart and mind,” Bishop Barnes said. “This is how we are to live our Catholic lives, by encountering the Lord and sharing it with others. It’s living our faith like disciples on mission.”
The history of the image of the Lord of Esquipulas is well known in Central America. The wooden crucifix, known as the Cristo Negro, or Black Christ, was commissioned in 1594 for a church in the small town of Esquipulas in Guatemala.
The image is said to be miraculous. Many people who have been healed of ailments attribute their visit to the image as the reason for God showing favor on them. Each year thousands flock to Esquipulas to venerate the image, especially during the festival on January 15 and during Holy Week.
“Every year we would take a three-day pilgrimage to Esquipulas,” said Ines Valles, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Growing up in El Salvador, he and his family would journey to Esquipulas to enrich their faith life and to take time for prayer and fellowship.
“Every year when we came back home we would leave so happy because we would have this encounter with God,” Valles said.