Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • May
  • 25

Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia finds home on River Street

Posted By May 25, 2012 | 6:02 pm | Local
May Mary 0924
By Patricia O’Connell

FITCHBURG – Driving through the Cleghorn section of this city you notice a variety of religious statues.

There are statues of Our Lady, a statue of St. Jude, another of St. Francis and another of St. Therese on the Corner of Theresa Street.
The latest addition is a three-foot high statue of Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia (Our Lady of the Highest Grace) on heavily traveled River Street.
This one is hard to miss. It sits very close to the road, and Our Lady’s mantle is painted a bright blue that matches the trim on the white two-family home behind it.
Each summer, its owners, Blas de la Cruz and his wife, Maria Antonio, touch up the paint. At Christmas, the statue glitters with tiny white lights.
The statue attracts its share of faithful, according to Mr. de la Cruz. Some people have knocked on his door, asking if they can buy it from him. But it’s not for sale.
He also notices some people driving past and making the Sign of the Cross.
The statue was given to Mr. de la Cruz by a friend from the Dominican Republic. Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia is the patroness of the island nation.
De la Cruz was born in the Dominican Republic, and came to the Fitchburg/Leominster area eight years ago.
This is a tiny bit of his homeland, transported thousands of miles north.
Each year, in January, according to Me. de la Cruz, there is a huge procession in the City of Higuey. This is the location of a minor basilica and cathedral dedicated to Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia.
De la Cruz said people travel from different parts of the island to Higuey for this annual procession.
There is an image of Our Lady of the Highest Grace inside the cathedral said to be miraculous. And there are varying stories of the origin of the image.
According to one story, a young girl requested that her father, a wealthy merchant, bring her back a picture of Our Lady of the Highest Grace when he returned from a trip. But the merchant didn’t believe such a title existed. While visiting a friend in Higuey, he talked about the dilemma of finding such an image. Suddenly, an old man with a beard appeared, handed them a painting and said, “This is what you are looking for.”
Later, the father brought the painting home and placed it in his house. It wouldn’t stay there. Repeatedly, it was found outdoors. Finally, the family gave it to a church.
On a recent afternoon, de la Cruz and his father, Mr. Domingo de la Cruz, who was visiting from the Dominican Republic were in the front yard, by the statue. Both men are devout Catholics. Blas de la Cruz attends St. Francis of Assisi parish in Fitchburg.
Domingo de la Cruz plays an instrument in the choir at his parish in the Dominican Republic.
The elder de la Cruz said to “walk with God.”