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Anniversary of El Oratorio

By Jesús Aguado

The fathers and devotees of the Oratorio of San Felipe Neri are preparing a special program. Founded 303 years ago this month, the Oratorio also celebrates 500 years since the birth of San Felipe.

The congregation of El Oratorio was officially founded in San Miguel on May 2, 1712. It was started as a location for attracting and catholicizing natives. A publication called Microhistory of El Oratorio states that when the natives adopted Catholicism, they did not forget their ancestral traditions. When they prayed, mainly to God on the Cross, they never forgot to thank the sun, the wind, and the earth for the harvest.

Father José Rodríguez Perales told Atención that the foundation of this church was surrounded by mysticism. When the fathers wanted to found the congregation in the Village of San Miguel el Grande, there were already priests from other congregations who saw them as an economic rival. These priests from other orders addressed a letter to the bishop in Michoacán, requesting him to stop the new group in San Miguel. The bishop agreed and issued a letter of cancelation. According to Rodríguez and the history of El Oratorio, when the letter was in transit, it was mysteriously or miraculously lost, so those priests already in town, as well as devotees, decided to found the congregation.

This place was also a very important school in Latin America—the College of San Francisco de Sales—where the heroes of the Mexican Independence, Ignacio Allende and the Aldama brothers studied (now the location of a branch of the University of Léon).

The devotion and spirituality of the devotees of the congregation brought the construction of other churches like Santa Ana, Las Monjas, La Salud, and even the main tower of the Parroquia, St. Michael the Archangel.

The College of St. Francisco de Sales was also used as a local prison by the insurgents during the War of Independence. Imprisoned there were the native-born Spaniards living in the village.

The celebration will be held starting on May 25, at 6:30am, with a mass and a procession with the recumbent body of St. Felipe Neri de Alfaro. The next day, on May 26, at 6am there will be ringing of bells, mass, and fireworks. At 2pm, at the atrium of the church, there will be live music, mojigangas, and crazies. At 7pm, a mass will be held, and later there will be more live music, mojigangas, dancers, crazies, fireworks, and rides.


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