Nicaragua is going through a time of great tension. The church is controlled and persecuted. According to the latest news from international agencies, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that the government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is further accentuating the repression of civil society, which began with force in 2018, and that lately even Catholic priests are victims of persecution.
Father Carlos Avilés, vicar general of the archdiocese of Managua, commented to the international press: “The current situation in Nicaragua is unprecedented. We have never seen such an abuse of power. The rights of any person are violated with impunity. Everyone’s rights are violated with impunity. There is total unconstitutionality and an absolute lack of institutionality. They punish us so that we remain silent and do not continue to walk with the people, but not saying what is happening would make us accomplices. They want a silent Church, but not speaking out would be a sin.”
Nevertheless, the people with great faith prepare the feast of Perpetual Help. Darwin Espinal, C.S.S.R., who works in the parish of the Most Holy Redeemer in Managua.
History shows us that the people of Nicaragua, since the time of the Spanish colony, profess a great love for the Mother of the Redeemer. This great love for the Virgin Mary has been manifested over the centuries through pilgrimages, pilgrimages to shrines, processions, praying the holy rosary in families and parish communities, novenaries, Marian congresses, among others.
There is still a tradition of enthroning the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in homes and placing a sign on the entrance doors that says: “In this home we are Catholics, we love and venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary”. The Mother of the Redeemer is venerated under different titles, one of the strongest of which is Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The people of Nicaragua celebrate the solemnity of the Mother of Perpetual Help on 27 June, but they prepare themselves by praying the novena and by catechetical preaching, which teaches the icon of the Mother’s love.
In Nicaragua, the icon of the Virgin has preceded the Redemptorist missionaries, according to the book Santa María del Perpetuo Socorro, Madre de Misericordia (2015), by the Nicaraguan confrere Bosco Rodríguez Alvarado, there is an oil on canvas, dating from the year one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, which is enthroned in the parish of Calvario, in the department of Chinandega, a year in which the children of St. Alphonsus had not yet arrived in these lands of lakes and volcanoes.
In Nicaragua, the love for this devotion is so great that many parents have named their daughters Socorro. There are also many chapels and parishes that have Our Lady of Perpetual Help as their patron saint, and in the diocese of Jinotega, she is the co-patron saint. In many parishes in the country, an image of the Virgin is on display for public veneration, and the day dedicated to her is celebrated with solemnity. Also visible in many neighbourhoods are the family prayers in honour of this Lady of quasi-universal invocation.
In our parish of the Most Holy Redeemer in Managua, capital of Nicaragua, we have the joy of possessing a replica of the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which was requested from the Father Rector of the Shrine in Rome, in the context of the Jubilee Year (2015-2016), The icon was blessed and enthroned by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, on 27 June 2016, and was requested from the Rector of the Shrine in Rome in the context of the Jubilee Year (2015-2016) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the restoration of the public worship of the Mother of Perpetual Help. Many of the faithful visit this parish to venerate the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
This parish, despite the economic limitations that the country is currently experiencing, this Marian town is preparing for the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the day itself begins with the singing of the mañanitas, the recitation of Lauds and the icon passes in public veneration, until the liturgical celebration, which is prepared by all the parish pastoral charisms.
Undoubtedly, the invocation of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is in the heart of the Nicaraguan people and that is why we cry out: Nicaragua of Mary, Mary of Nicaragua!
Fr. Darwin Espinal, C.Ss.R. – Scala News