Nine Saturday Novenna before the Feast of Mother of Perpetual Help started last Saturday in St Alphonsus church in Salta, Argentina. This year the novena is preached by Father Alejandro García, a Redemptorist missionary who lives in the African country of Mozambique. Fr. Javier Roldán commented on the event for the local press, sharing more details about the rosary procession and traditional hot chocolate and sweet bread distributed after the celebrations. On this occasion, the entire community of the San Alfonso school, both at the primary and secondary levels, took part. The different folk groups also accompanied the Gaucho Virgin.
Father Javier Roldán said: “We are very happy with the beginning of the nine Saturdays before the novena because it puts us in the right mood. This year’s motto is ‘With Mary, Mother of Hope, in the footsteps of the Redeemer’ because we want as a community to raise our heads and walk behind Jesus, who alone can guide us along the best path in a time of divisions, of economic and social problems”.
Ignacio Ramírez, a member of the Los Yacones fort, custodian of Perpetual Help, said: “I have been a guardian of the Virgin since I was three years old. That is to say, a whole life since I was a gaucho. I have a lot of faith. This year I pray especially for the health of the whole family of all Argentines”.
In 1883 the Redemptorist fathers arrived in Salta and settled in the church of La Merced to go on a horseback mission in the Calchaquíes Valleys.
According to historians’ accounts, on April 19th, 1894, the construction of a small shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Perpetual Help was finished in the present Leguizamón Street. Later, in 1908, an important extension of the building was carried out. The work was completed on 1 August 1911. At its inauguration, Saint Alphonsus, founder of the Redemptorist Congregation, was declared the patron saint of the church, and also the icon of Mother of Perpetual Help was introduced to the church. In 1957, Monsignor Roberto Tavella elevated it to the rank of parish, and it was renamed Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro y San Alfonso (Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Saint Alphonsus).
In the Salta parish, there are two replicas of the icon, the one that goes out in the procession and the one that is located on the main altar.