Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church celebrates its 220th Fiestas

........................................................................................................................................................................................

It’s a celebration of faith, family and friendship that’s been going on for more than two centuries in the Hub City.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: In the running for the 2013 fiesta queen title are, from left, Victoria Martinez and Isabella Torres.

The Our Lady of Belen Fiestas began its 220th celebration this year on Wednesday, and the four-day celebration, in honor of the church’s patron saint, Virgin Mary, extends through Sunday, Aug. 18.

This tradition is a way to honor the church’s establishment, as well as parishioners who have passed down their religious beliefs to their children.

“It’s a reminder of the founding of a parish and its connection with the Catholic church as a whole,” said Our Lady of Belen’s Rev. Stephen Schultz.

The 2013 fiesta’s theme is “With God, everything is possible,” or in Spanish “Con Dios todo es posible.”

Fiesta padrino Valerie Gutierrez said this saying “really hits home” for her and she hopes others who feel the same way will attend the weekend event.

Georgia Garcia, who with her husband, Joseph, are parade marshals, said, “Regardless of what congregation you belong to, anything is possible.”

Anyone is welcome to attend, added fiesta padrino Martina Padilla.

Former Belenites plan their annual vacations around the Our Lady of Belen Fiestas to make sure they are present during the celebration, Garcia said.

This year’s event is full of live music entertainment, bingo, the 15th Annual “Salo Garcia” Chile Contest, a children’s puppet show and raffle. Residents can buy a $5 raffle ticket at the entrance for their chance to win the $5,000 grand prize.

The music lineup includes the Samuel D Band, Severo y el Grupo Fugo, Grupo Mezcal and Los Garrapatas.

In the Catholic faith, churches dedicate themselves either to a patron saint or an aspect from the life of Christ. This patron saint is a intercessor, who prays on behalf of the church or for the church, to God.

In the case of Our Lady of Belen, the churches patron saint is “the blessed Virgin Mary,” Schultz said.

To celebrate her, the church chooses a feast day as an annual fiesta. This is why Belen’s fiestas are held on Aug. 15 the Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the day when the Virgin Mary was taken up, body and soul, into heaven.

Feast Day becomes a celebration of faith while parishioners take time to recognize qualities that define their patron saint and imitate those qualities in their daily lives.

Qualities the Virgin Mary are known for are her willingness to do God’s will, her faithfulness to Jesus, how she led others to her son, her attitude of service toward others and the hope she brought to believers, Schultz said.

Leading up to the fiesta are nine days of special prayers, or novenas. On the evening before feast day, the prayers are continued with vespers, or evening prayer.

Parishioners are required to attend a special Mass is on the feast day, or holy day of obligation. The Mass is held three times throughout the day to accommodate people’s schedules.

From within the parish, two couples are chosen as fiesta padrinos, or godparents, who help organize the celebration. This year’s fiesta padrinos are Gene and Martina Padilla, and Nick and Valerie Gutierrez.

Parishioners nominate candidates for a fiesta queen, who they feel embody good qualities throughout their lives and faith.

Those qualities include volunteering and having a good character, and being a role model for others growing up in the church.

This year’s fiesta queen candidates, ranging from eighth through 12th grade, are Isabella Torres and Victoria Martinez.

A judging committee will choose a fiesta queen, who receives a tiara, sash, college scholarship and participates in the fiesta parade. The fiesta queen receives a $500 scholarship while the fiesta princess, or runner up, gets a $300 scholarship.

The fiesta itself is chock full of scrumptious fair foods, carnival rides and handmade arts and crafts.

This year’s parade marshals are Joseph and Georgia Garcia.

For the full list of Our Lady of Belen Fiestas events, visit their website at www.ourladyofbelen.org and click on calendar of events.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

Wednesday, Aug. 14
Visperas and crowning of the Fiesta Queen
Thursday, Aug. 15
Holy Day of Obligation — the Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Friday, Aug. 16
Friday is buy-a-wristband night for unlimited carnival rides
6 p.m.: Bingo in the Parish Hall, Samuel D Band
8 p.m.: Westwind
11 p.m.: Close
Saturday, Aug. 17
10 a.m.: Fiesta parade
4 p.m.: Carnival and booths ppen, Suevecito Band
6 p.m.: Severo Y El Grupo Fuego
6:30 p.m.: Bingo
8 p.m.: Grupo Mezcal
Sunday, Aug. 18
8 a.m.- noon: Breakfast burritos
1 p.m.: Carnival and booths open, Desert Street Band
2 p.m.: Bingo, Los Alegres De Belen
3:45 p.m.: Los Garrapatas
4 p.m.: 15th annual “Salo Garcia” Chile Contest
5:30 p.m.: Encanto
6 p.m.: Puppet show in the Parish Hall
8 p.m.: Gonzalo
10 p.m.: Raffle drawing
10:30 p.m.: Close


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.