HAZLETON – An estimated 1,500 people packed into the gymnasium at Holy Family Academy on Jan. 21, 2024, to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Altagracia.

The colorful celebration was filled with beautiful music and brought together several parishes in the greater Hazleton area that have Spanish Masses.

An estimated 1,500 people filled the gymnasium of Holy Family Academy to celebrate Mass in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Altagracia on Jan. 21, 2024.

“What we had today was a big celebration, three parishes together and everybody as Dominican, but we also got people from other communities who are not Dominican because they enjoy gathering together,” Father Neftali Feliz-Sena, Assistant Pastor, Annunciation Parish, said.

Our Lady of Altagracia is the patroness of the Dominican Republic.

“She is the Queen of the Universal Church and the Hispanic people in particular have a great love for their mother. You see how mothers are revered and honored in their culture and it falls into line very naturally that the mother of God, who is our mother, would be the mother of Dominicans and all of us,” Father Kevin Miller, Pastor, Annunciation Parish, explained.

The Mass was filled with young people, multi-generational families, and many others coming together to celebrate their culture and heritage.

“They never want to forget how important it is to keep their language and to be able to practice their faith with love and joy,” Father Miller added.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the special celebration. At the beginning of the liturgy, the crowds cheered and applauded as Bishop Bambera was presented with a handmade mitre for the Eucharistic celebration.

During his homily, the Bishop reminded the crowd that Mary was the first disciple of Jesus.

“Mary was not only a recipient of God’s mercy but also an instrument through which that same mercy poured into the lives of others,” Bishop Bambera said.

Jose Rafael Rodriguez, parishioner of Annunciation Parish, said he was amazed at the turnout for the celebration.

“The love for Altagracia is humongous,” he said. “We love her kindness and what she does for the Dominican people. She is our protector.”