One month long visit in Tandapi

After almost a month in the parish of Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in Tandapi, Our Lady in Her Czestochowa Icon left the inhabitants of the region.

Geographically the town of Tandapi is a part of the Mejía Canton in the province of Pichincha, but for pastoral reasons belongs to the diocese of Santo Domingo. This area is very rainy and it is half way between Santo Domingo and Aloag. The Pilatón river flows along the valley and through the town.

At the arrival of the Icon to the parish the Holy Men group received Her all dressed in white as is the custom for them. During the time that Our Lady was with the community there were numerous rosaries recited and masses offered. All the rosaries were with the intention of protecting human life, from conception to natural death, as well as all the homilies. Many people came to Her to share their sorrows and worries, because as a loving mother, Mary is always ready to listen to Her children.

Next to the parish is the José María Vélez Educational Center, a missionary institution of the Catholic Church part of which is financed by the government and by students. There are about 150 students who contribute monthly  $10 for their studies. The interesting thing about this educational system is that the school works only on Saturdays, from 8am to 3pm. In this way, people who work from Monday to Friday or who live far from Tandapi can continue their studies.

This educational system is part of the Fe y Alegría Inferyal Radio Institute, which operates in other communities through a radio station, where students listen to their classes and then come on specific days to take tests.

The Mass on Saturday 12 August had a double cause for celebration. Not only was it the farewell to the parish for the Icon, but also one of the last Mass celebrated by Father Hector Salinas as pastor of this church. He leaves for Spain, to study canon law at the University of Navarra It is a scholarship from the diocese of Santo Domingo. For many of the students and parishioners this was a surprise, as Father Hector is very dear to them. But we are sure that God will reward his work as a good shepherd and he will come back much more prepared to lead his flock. We wish you luck Father!

During the farewell homily Father Héctor recalled that just as when we followed the image of Mary in procession and ended up in the Church for the Holy Mass and Christ, so like always She leads us to her Son Jesus. We do not worship her, we venerate her as the Mother of God, who shows us the one who is the Way, the Truth and Life.

At the end of the mass, the international pilgrimage coordinator, Lech Kowaleski, addressed those present and talked about the language written into the Icon of Our Lady, with emphasis on the eyes of Mary that invite reflection. This Icon is known as the Queen of Poland and as the Invincible Victory.

Upon learning that the Icon was leaving the parish, Mary, an owner of a small restaurant, became very sad. "Do not take her yet," she told us. "The first time I saw her I thought the Virgin was sad because I had done something wrong, but then some friends also told me that they saw her with a sore face. I do not want to cause her any more pain," she said.

Our Lady has other children to visit, so she continues on her pilgrimage looking for souls who want to look into her eyes, to accompany them in their pain and to bring them to her Son. She keeps everyone very close to her heart, especially those who most need her protection.

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