BELEN — This year, the Our Lady of Belen Fiestas will take a step back, embracing the traditional roots and intention of the celebration, said the church’s pastor.
With large gatherings off the table due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the usual Fiesta activities — the parade, carnival, music and royalty competition — have been canceled.
“Many times you hear people talk about ‘getting back to the way church used to be,’” said Fr. Clement Niggel. “This year, this is kind of a way to take a step back — back to when the Fiestas were all about spirituality. Everything this year is focused on spirituality. We even have a movie that is filled with all sorts of Christian themes.
“We’re getting back to what it’s about. Not loud music and toys and funnel cake, but giving honor and praise to our Lord.”
This year’s Fiestas will still have the traditional Mass and Vespers on Friday, Aug. 14, but the Eucharistic procession will be a bit different.
To accommodate the mandated social distancing, the processional this year will be done in cars, circling the church for as long as it takes to recite the Rosary, Niggel said. A priest carrying the consecrated host will lead the procession north on 10th Street, west on W. Reinken Ave., then south on S. Mesa Road and east on W. Delgado Ave.
“Usually we do a small procession around the church on the grounds, walking, but to guarantee social distancing we will be driving this year,” Niggel said. “The difference between the procession and a parade is people are encouraged to join in and follow along. There aren’t spectators. This is something you participate in.”
Mass will be at 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 14, and Vespers will be at 6 p.m., with the Eucharistic procession following at about 6:30 p.m.
Those driving in the procession can listen to the recitation of the Rosary on their radio by tuning into an empty frequency near 107.3.
On Saturday, Aug. 15, Mass will be at 4 and 7 p.m., and a drive-in movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” will start after the second Mass, weather permitting, in the parking lot west of the church.
“This has been hurtful and hard, but unfortunately it was unavoidable,” Niggel said. “We are looking at possibly doing something more early next year near Jan. 6, the Feast of the Wise Men.”
Also known as the Feast of the Epiphany, the date is also a kind of Feast Day of the church, he said.
“If you go the holy lands, Our Lady of Belen is where, after the birth of Jesus they had found a place to stay, this is where the wise men came to visit and present gifts,” Niggel said. “In a way, we are extending the Fiestas even longer. We’ll have to play things by ear to see if we can make plans.
“I want to remind everyone to be safe. If you are sick don’t go out, not to church or Walmart.”