By Tim Harfmann
Students at the Mary Louis Academy are celebrating All Souls Day early and in a unique way – they’re decorating makeshift altars known as ofrendas.
“The tradition is to honor your loved ones who have passed away. So, the idea is you put a memory of them on the ofrenda, or you write a little description about them,” said Juliana Morsello.
Ofrendas, or ‘offering’ in Spanish, are known as a Mexican custom celebrating the day of the dead and recognizing loved ones are in heaven.
“They celebrate the whole day. They go to the grave, they clean it, they have picnics, they talk to their loved one, they eat together. It’s a whole ceremony, it’s a whole day ordeal,” said Emma Gilvary.
The all-girls Catholic high school in Queens also created ofrendas honoring the patrons of their four academic honor societies: Mother Mary Louis, Mother Saint John Fontbonne, Saint Teresa of Avila and Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini.
“Mother Cabrini is definitely a woman of strength, faith and dignity. She assisted Italian immigrants, she created 67 different institutions, whereas they were hospitals and different schools. So, I definitely think she’s very important to us,” said Morsello.
Each student had the opportunity to create her own ofrenda necklace. It’s a tag with photos and decorations of people they admire.
One-person Vincenza Julian is honoring is her uncle, Vinny, a first responder on 9/11.
“He was killed on 9/11, which was also his birthday. He was also a captain in the FDNY. He was promoted posthumously,” said Julian.
Some students made personal ofrendas in shoe boxes while others attended a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico through virtual reality.
It was all an effort to have a better understanding of cultural traditions while honoring those who have gone before us.