Our Lady of Mount Carmel Fiesta Celebration 2020

The Carmelite nuns of the Carmelite Monastery in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City, have found online alternatives to reach out to the devotees of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel for her Feast day celebration amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sister Maria Luz Tapales of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, 66, and the current mother superior of the Carmelite Monastery, said that as the pandemic is expected to stay indefinitely, they decided to hold a month-long celebration for the feast day of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

They have also livestreamed the novena and mass celebrations on their official Facebook page (Carmelite Monastery of Cebu).

With the churches in Cebu City still closed to the public in the first half of July 2020, she said this is the first time the novena has not been physically accessible to the public.

She said: “We can make it our own, but what we want is to be able to reach the devotees of Our Lady. She has many devotees. We don’t know if restrictions will ease by July 16, but if they will, a few people can come and health protocol will be in place. We’re prepared.”

The Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Feast Day is celebrated every July 16, the same day the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock in 1251. The Brown Scapular of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is among the most celebrated of Roman Catholic devotions.

The Carmelite Monastery in Mabolo, home to 25 Discalced Carmelite nuns, is a known place of prayer in Cebu City and is frequented by devotees and pilgrims from all over Cebu for the yearly celebration of the feast day of its patroness.

Despite the absence of fanfare and pilgrims this year, Tapales said there still remain the excitement and the spiritual essence of the celebration.

The nuns, she said, always look forward to waking up to a “Diana” or a song dedicated to the Lady played every five o’clock in the morning.

Prior to the pandemic, the sponsorship for the nine-day novena from July 7 to July 15 is distributed among the parishioners of the different Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parishes outside the City (as far as the Municipality of Santander) who visit the Monastery.

This time, they, together with the seminary priests, decided to dedicate the entire July to the Lady with the novena started earlier on July 1 until 31.

“It is up to the devotees to choose nine consecutive days for their novena to be completed within the whole month of July,” Tapales said.

One mass celebration was offered and livestreamed daily from July 1 to 6 while three online masses were offered from July 7 until July 15 with the rosary and the novena.

The mass for the actual feast day on July 16 will be celebrated every two hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will officiate the mass scheduled at 10 a.m. while Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones is scheduled to officiate the mass at 4 p.m.

By inviting priests from a nearby seminary in Mabolo to celebrate mass in their chapel, they, Tapales said, did not miss mass while ensuring protection for the elderly nuns, aged 97 and 92, with strict community quarantine protocol in place since April.

Should health protocol permit, she said they plan to parade a truck carrying the blessed image of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel by the end of July, with routes still to be planned.