The month of October was very full for all of us in Mexico. During this month, we celebrated the fourth anniversary of the canonization of St. Andre Bessette.
The House of Formation prepared a large celebration in his honor on Friday, October 17 with many people from the parish in attendence (in fact, we had close to 500 people!). We began the evening with a procession that consisted of "danzas," or dancers that performed traditional dances of the indigenous people of Mexico, a statue and banner of St. Andre, the Holy Cross seminarians and priests in Mexico and all the people who attended. It was a wonderful cultural experience for me to see how the people here honor a saint in their own way. It was very lively and celebratory, yet very solemn and respectful.
After the procession, we celebrated Mass with one of the auxiliary bishops of Monterrey, Bishop Juan Armando Perez Talamantes. It was a beautiful celebration of the life and influence of St. Andre. Fr. Tom Zurcher, the superior of the Holy Cross Religious in Mexico, gave a beautiful homily about how the life of St. Andre is a call for all of us to strive to be saints as well. After the Mass, we had a large dinner in the street in front of the House of Formation with food very typical for Mexico: tamales. There was Mariachi, inflatable toys for the kids and a raffle of books, images, statues and medals of St. Andre and St. Joseph, the saint to whom Andre had a great devotion. The night was a great success and was a wonderful way to celebrate the devotion to St. Andre.
A few weeks after, we celebrated All Souls Day, or Day of the Dead, as they call it here in Mexico. This was a new experience for me, since this is a much larger celebration here than it is in the United States. I first learned how to construct an "Altar to the Dead." This is a beautiful tradition here for people to remember the faithful departed in their families. Every house makes an altar that has photos of deceased loved ones and types of food and drink that their loved ones really enjoyed. It is filled with a lot of flowers and decorations to make it look very colorful and vibrant. We had an altar here in the House of Formation for the Holy Cross Religious who passed away in the past year and one in the parish for the deceased members of the parish.
On November 2, the celebration of All Souls Day, I went to the cemetery to help with a Mass that was said for all the deceased buried there. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and found the cemetery full of people. Family members went to the graves of their loved ones to clean them, decorate them and bring food and drink for their deceased to enjoy. The families spent a lot of time at the sides of their deceased loved ones, eating, singing and having a good time together. It was a very moving experience for me because it was truly a celebration of life for these beloved deceased.
In the House of Formation, we had our own commemoration for the Holy Cross Religious who passed away this past year and for the deceased loved ones in our families. Each seminarian took turns saying the names of the deceased in his family and lighting a candle for the person. After everyone went, we had a beautiful image of lighted candles in the form of the Cross and Anchors in our chapel. I was really taken by the experiences of this day and learned a lot about the respect and love the Mexican people have for those who have gone before them.
Mr. Ryan Pietrocarlo, C.S.C. is completing a pastoral year as a seminarian in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He and other seminarians post twice each month for the Spes Unica Blog. 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.