We are approaching the end of the year for many of the group activities in the parish, and the beginning of summer. The month of May here in La Luz has been full of activity.
We celebrated three patronal feasts of the chapels in the parish. The first was the feast of the Holy Cross (a feast celebrated in Mexico, but not in the US) on May 3 (for the Chapel of the Holy Cross), the feast of Saint Mathias on May 14 (for the chapel of Saint Matthias) and the feast of Nuestra Madre Santisima de la Luz on May 30 (for the parish La Luz). The patronal feast of a chapel here in Mexico is a big event. There is a Mass to celebrate the feast day, which everyone who is part of the chapel attends. Afterwards there is a lively celebration full of much activity. There are carnival rides, bingo, concerts, shows, and of course, lots of delicious Mexican food. It was very special for me to attend these patronal feast celebrations and experience an important part of the culture here in Mexico. The devotion to one's chapel is very strong and these celebrations are an exhibition of the love and dedication that the people have for their chapel. Everyone that is part of the chapel comes to celebrate together along with members of other chapels. It is a special sign of the unity of the chapel and of the parish.
In the midst of these celebrations, we were also celebrating First Communions in the parish. First Communion here in Monterrey marks the end of the catechism program in the parish and is the culmination of Christian Initiation in the Church. Three hundred kids celebrated their First Communions during the month of May. Every chapel had a special Mass for those receiving the Eucharist for the first time and, as all things are here in Mexico, they were followed by vibrant celebrations. The chapels were filled with boys in nice suits and girls in beautiful white dresses. Parents, godparents and friends prayed together for their kids and the beginning of this new stage in their lives of faith. It was a beautiful sight for me to see because the Eucharist holds a special place in the lives of the people here and there was a great pride in the families that their children were to partake in the Celestial Banquet for the first time.
The coming of the summer here also marks the beginning of the retreat season in La Luz. There are various retreats for youth and young adults during the summer so that they can take some time to deepen their relationship with God. The first of these retreats took place in May, called "Joven Nuevo ("New Youth"), a retreat designed for young adults from the ages of 20 to 35. Thirty-seven young adults participated in the 3-day retreat and were very much impacted by the experience. The focus of this retreat was two-fold: relationship with God and relationship with others. There were many powerful talks, activities and moments that touched the very depths of these people's lives. I was genuinely touched by the fire that ignited in the hearts of these young adults. Many of them have begun to integrate themselves into the Church, some after substantial time away. One of the strengths of the church in Mexico is the focus on follow-up. There are meetings every week after the retreat for the young adults to think more about how they can incorporate what they have learned and experienced into their daily lives. I am very impressed with these sessions, because the fire that begins in a retreat can sometimes very quickly dissipate. These meetings help foster that fire and direct the energy and sentiments from the retreat into their lives. It's a beautiful tool of evangelization and a way to deepen the faith and motivate the involvement of the young people in the Church.
Mr. Ryan Pietrocarlo, C.S.C. is completing a pastoral year as a seminarian for the Congregation of Holy Cross. He is currently assigned to Nuestra Madre Santisima de La Luz in Monterrey, Mexico. Ryan graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in biochemistry prior to joining the Holy Cross formation program. He is from East Rochester, New York.