Saipan, CNMI—The Roman Catholic Church celebrated last August 16, 2021 the Feast of San Roque, the great patron saint of the sick and invalid.  For the Parish of San Roque of the Northern Cluster of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, the 70th celebration of the feast in honor of San Roque was held on August 22, 2021. In the midst of these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic, the faithful turn to the powerful intercession of San Roque for safety, protection and healing.

A year has passed since the parish first celebrated its fiesta in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, there were similar challenges as well as new ones, but the fiesta was still a success!

Since Fray Leo Neil Bullos, OAR left the island as he was assigned to his new post in Cebu City, Philippines, the responsibility for the two northern parishes rested on Fray Jayferson Baldelovar, OAR. Even with the added responsibility, Fr. Jay was able to lead the preparations for fiesta. As early as June, the San Roque Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) began to meet regularly with a new president and new faces on the council. 

Beginning August 14, 2021, daily novena was recited for the powerful intercession of San Roque. This was followed by Holy Mass. Diocesan priests took turns in presiding the Mass.  Imposition of holy oil was done after each Mass.

Days before the fiesta, the Servants of San Roque, parishioners and volunteers worked together to prepare for the grand fiesta celebration. Led by the Temporalities/Maintenance Committee, water blasting of church grounds, bush cutting, inside-church cleaning and altar decorations were done.  The Camacho Family and Friends built a very beautiful Fiesta Welcome Arch at the main entrance of the church. This has been their family tradition every San Roque Fiesta. 

The main event was on the Sunday, August 22, 2021.  San Roque devotees and parishioners flocked the San Roque Church to attend the Holy Mass.  His Excellency, Most Rev. Ryan P. Jimenez, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, presided the Fiesta Mass.  Fray Jay concelebrated and Rev. Jeff Camacho and Rev. Tom Schweiger assisted. 

Bishop Ryan, in his homily emphasized that he always believes that the San Roque Parish is an ideal parish, united as one family, one community of believers working together to serve the Church.  He shares his joy that the parish, despite the challenges of parish priest turnover is still alive!  He was particularly impressed of the choir.  The Manamkos (Adults) stepped up in the absence of the Manhobens (Youth) who left the island to study abroad.  Soon-to-be Deacon Roger Dris was also acknowledged for his beautiful proclamation/singing of the Responsorial Psalm. 

Cris Camacho, PPC President, delivered his acknowledgements speech at the end of the Holy Mass.

About 300 devotees attended the Fiesta celebration. To comply with safety protocols of physical distancing, only a limited number of faithful could be accommodated inside the church.  Fray Jay and the PPC made sure that tents were set up outside the church. A motorcade/caravan around the villages of San Roque and Santa Remedios (Tanapag) followed the Holy Mass.  The images of San Roque, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Nuestra Señora de la Salud, on their own pick-up trucks led the motorcade.  The participating vehicles were adorned with banners and green and yellow balloons.  The recorded choir rendition of the San Roque hymn (Sasagueta si San Roque) accompanied the caravan.  As soon as the motorcade returned to church, Fray Jay led the Prayer to San Roque. Prayer cards were distributed. Then, he blessed all images. The tradition three-times chanting of “Biba San Roque” by Fray Jay and echoed by the faithful made the event even more joyful!

All attendees were given San Roque blessed oil.  Lunch packs were given to all.

The Fiesta celebration culminated with a Clergy Night at 7pm.  Bishop Ryan and the Diocesan clergy, deacons and Pastorelle sisters joined Fray Jay and the Servants of San Roque in a sumptuous dinner. Fray Albert Pellazar, OAR, Local Prior of Recoletos de Saipan and Parish Priest of Kristo Rai, blessed the food.  He expressed his appreciation to all present in the celebration.  The festive mood continued with the priests and guests taking turns in karaoke and the dance floor.

Fray Jay sent a message of thanks to all who helped in the fiesta celebrations.  He said that the celebration may not be perfect and as grandiose as in previous years. But what made the Fiesta Day remarkable was the presence of everyone!  To God be the Glory!     

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