By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
This month, Catholics in Riverside, Richmond and Wellman will honor deceased loved ones by placing photos and other remembrances on a brightly decorated altar called an ofrenda.
This type of offering is an essential part of Mexican “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) celebrations, which coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day in early November. While few parishioners from Holy Family Parish of Riverside, Richmond and Wellman can claim Mexican heritage, they have come to embrace the tradition in recent years.
The pastor, Father Bill Roush, first became acquainted with the tradition while studying with Latino seminarians at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Wisconsin. Having lost his wife, Cindy, to cancer a decade earlier on All Souls Day, “I was so touched by it for multiple reasons.” He placed her photo on the campus ofrenda. “We celebrate earthly birthdays continually and our faith is about our heavenly birth into eternity. This is a way to celebrate that.”
Father Roush continued the tradition after becoming the pastor of Holy Family Parish. He started out by placing an ofrenda at one of the three parish churches and received positive response. Now all three churches — St. Mary in Riverside, Holy Trinity in Richmond and St. Joseph in Wellman — display ofrendas.
Religious education students learned about Dia de los Muertos and the significance of ofrendas during classes at the end of October. “This is a great opportunity for our kids to learn about another culture all while incorporating it into All Saints Day and All Souls Day,” said Melissa Ruth, a religious education teacher and parent from the Riverside church. “It is also really nice to see the pictures and mementos that the kids brought for the ofrendas to remember their loved ones.”
Siblings Eva, Elaina and Xander Hernandez placed remembrance offerings on the ofrenda in Richmond. “It’s important because when people we love go to heaven, we want them to know that we will always remember and cherish them. It makes my heart feel warm” to honor them, Eva said. “Celebrating Dia de los Muertos is when we can say special prayers for the people we love that passed away,” Elaina added. Xander’s favorite part of the ofrenda is putting up pictures and things that belonged to family members “so they know how much we love and miss them. It’s fun to celebrate how much we love them” even though they are not physically present.
All parishioners are invited to bring photos and mementos to place on the ofrendas through November.