Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish-Recoletos @ 50: a celebration of history and devotion to La Limpia
CEBU CITY– Founded on January 1,1971, the Parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – Recoletos opens the
yearlong celebration of its 50th Founding Anniversary and Parish Fiesta last July 16,2021. Despite the threat of COVID – 19, devotees flocked the Parish Church to pray and visit its Patroness – Nuestra Señora del Carmen, La Limpia (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, The Clean One). It was indeed a celebration of history and devotion.
“Bulak sa Carmel”
The Fiesta Activities began with the Bulak sa Carmel Festival which is celebrated on a Sunday before the first day of the Novena. The 13 Chapels decorated their respective “Andas” with flowers early morning of July 4,2021 to prepare for the festival. The Festival is to honor the Patroness by offering flowers. This was inspired by the old hymn – Flos Carmeli (The Flower of Carmel). The flower offering becomes a symbol of our love and devotion to Mary, the Flower of Carmel.
When all was prepared, the chapel leaders carried their “andas”, while the devotees were holding flowers. They were dancing as they approach the Patroness. We might say, as the Sinulog is for the Sto. Niño de Cebu, the Bulak sa Carmel is for Mother Mary. The flowers were then blessed afterwards and distributed once again to the people.
Vigil and Fiesta Mass
On July 15 at 5:30 pm the Archbishop of Cebu, Most Rev. Jose S. Palma, D.D. celebrated the Vigil Mass together with the Recollect communities of USJ-R Main Campus, USJ-R Balamban and OLCP-R of Laray. In his homily, Bishop Palma publicly announced the approval for the Episcopal Coronation of the Parish Patroness which brought excitement to the people. He also challenged the devotees to be like Mary as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel that we should also climb the mountain who is Christ.
After the homily, Fray Joseph Cyprian Panaligan, OAR, Parish Priest, installed Ms. Celina Uraca as the official “Camarera” of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, La Limpia. As a symbol of being the custodian of the Patroness, she was bestowed with a crucifix.
As a gift, Archbishop Palma received the brown scapular during the celebration. It is also to encourage the people to wear the Brown Scapular. The Bishop humbly knelt down to receive with joy the “mantle of protection” of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Early morning of the next day, devotees from nearby towns and provinces of Cebu lighted candles in the parish. The atmosphere was full of joy and excitement. The first Fiesta Mass began at 6:30 am. People come and go, some to attend the Mass while others are just to pray in front of the Virgin. At 9:30 am, the Concelebrated Mass began. It was presided by Msgr. Ruben Labajo, one of the Vicars General in the Archdiocese of Cebu.
Before the start of the Eucharistic Celebration, San Diego Dancers presented the “Bulak sa Carmel” in behalf of the people. It was then followed with a Eucharistic Procession. Msgr. Labajo during the homily pointed the importance of the 50th Founding Anniversary of the Parish in connection to the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines. The Salve and Iosef were then sang after the Mass and brown scapulars were distributed to all the people.
The 50th Parish Fiesta culminated on July 19, 2021 with the “Despedida” for the Patroness. This is part of the Parish’s preparation for the Episcopal Coronation of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, La Limpia on January 8, 2022. The image will undergo a major restoration for the first time and will be unavailable for public veneration for the next five months. Because of this, the parish celebrated a “despedida” for the Patroness before her departure.
The ceremony began when the crowns of the Virgin and of the Child Jesus were removed, and replaced with “sombrero y capa de peregrinacion.” This was taken from old religious ceremonials when a Marian image will not go out in a solemn procession. A long scapular was also attached for the last public veneration. It concluded with people singing “Adios Rayna sa Langit” while the image was being covered with a brown cloth. It was an emotional celebration as the people bid farewell to the Patroness, but also full of anticipation for her return on December 8.