by Hector Pascua, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Bicolanos and devotees  in Austria commemorated on September 15, 2018 the  annual fluvial procession on board the MS Tegethoff, a passenger vessel, along the Danube River from Vienna, Austria to Tulln, Lower Austria  in honor of their regional Patroness, Our Lady of Penafrancia.

Leading the celebration are the Bikol Society in Austria and the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy in Vienna.

The almost three-hours early morning trip from the dock of the Schiffahrtszentrum in Vienna to the dock of Tulln, a province in the Lower Austrian region  is a re-creation of the Lady’s voyage from the Naga Cathedral, where the novena was held, back to her shrine at the Basilica Minore following the Naga River route. The devotees made a procession going to the church where   a Holy Mass took place.

As it is done in Naga, during the fluvial procession on the Danube River, the devotees on board MS Tegethoff prayed the rosary with the images of Virgin of Peñafrancia and Holy Face of Jesus Christ also on board.

Many Filipinos in Austria attest that the Nuestra Y Senora de Penafrancia has taken care of them and their loved ones back home.

„For me it is already a panata” (pledge) to join the fluvial procession. Nothing would prevent me from joining the event,“ a devotee said.

Almost all the devotees who joined the fluvial pilgrimage  attributed their answered prayers through the intercession of Our Lady of Peñafrancia

„Close to 600 people attended the celebration. This is what we want …to have more people celebrating with us,” one of the organizer commented.

Ambassador to Egypt, Sulficio Confiado and wife Precy.

“We, the  Bikolanos in Austria brought this religious devotion in Vienna because we want to become instruments of faith among our “kababayans”. We want to spread the devotion to INA which has really brought meaning to the lives of a number of Filipino Marian devotees in Austria. Personally, my devotion to INA saved me from my sickness. I was a cancer patient before but through INA’s intercession, now I feel being  healed,” a Bicolana, who do not want to be dentified commented.

Holy Mass at tSt. Stephans Church in Tulln

After almost 30 minutes  procession from Tulln‘s Ship’s Station, a Holy Mass was held at the Kremser Cathedral. This had been officiated by Bishop Socrates Mesiona, Bishop of the Diozese of Puerto Princesa, Palawan together with the chaplains of the Filipino Catholic Community in Austria and priests from the Parish of St. Stephan in Tulln.

Bishop Socrates Mesiona talked in his homily about the qualities of a good leader, being personified by Mary herself. He mentioned three qualities that everyone should posses in order to be  true servant-leaders in our christian community: obedience, humble and inspiring.

Ambassador to Austria, Ms. Maria Cleofe Natividad  expressed her  admiration and congratulated the Bicolanos in Austria and the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy  for continuously giving importance in celebrating the Penafrancia fiesta.

The Ambassador likewise  acknowledged the vital, vibrant, and vivid roles that the Bikol Society in Austria and devotees continue to play in projecting a favourable image of the Philippines through such  religious event.

The mass was also attended by  outgoing Consul General and designated Ambassador to Egypt, Ambassador  Sulficio Confiado together with wife Precy, and other staff of the Philippine Embassy in Vienna.

„We will carry this Devotion in our hearts as we journey to Cairo to assume our new posting.  We attribute this new assignment, this new  service to  our Goleta Ina’s loving intercession.  We are  indeed truly blessed. We honor and thank  the Bikol Society Austria (BSA) and the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy (FCC) for sharing this devotion with each and everyone of us.   May this year’s celebration be an occasion for each one us to reach out to more people and share the faith and  the love  of our Ina,“ Ambassador Sulficio Confiado said.


Marizel Rojas, President of Bikol Society in Austria

The mayor of Tulln,  Hon. Peter Eisenschenk, who was also present during the Holy Mass delivered a short message and welcomed the Filipinos in Tulln.

„It is an honor for us here in Tulln to welcome you and conduct this  pilgrimage in  our town I hope that this tradition will be nurtured,“  the mayor said in his speech.

Marizel Rojas, President of the  Bikol Society in Austria expressed her heartfelt gratitude to her fellow Bikolanos and to the Filipino community and Austrian friends for showing their devotion the Ina.

“Dios mabalos saindo gabos!! May God reward all those who extended heartwarming support to make the festivities meaningful and instrumental in propagating our devotion to our INA, Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia,” Rojas said.

 Also present were the leaders of the different Filipino communities.

The devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia remains strong among Bicolano communities in various parts of the country and abroad.

There are civic and religious organizations in the United States and Europe that continue to practice and promote devotion to the region’s patroness.

The first fluvial procession in Vienna happened in 2003. Since then, the Penafrancia fluvial parade has become a tradition among the Bikolanos and Marian devotees in Austria.

Before the fluvial procession, a 9-day novena was conducted at the Filipino Catholic Church in Vienna’s 10th District, where devotees gather for the nightly prayers and “salo-salo” sponsored by independent Bicol support organizations.

The Penafrancia Committee of the Bicol Society in Austria, under the leadership of Marizel Rojas, has been working with the Filipino Catholic community for a successful and meaningful Peñafrancia feast. In the Philippines and abroad, the Peñafrancia fiesta is the only regionwide festival observed by people coming from the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon. Devotees also joined them from other places.

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