Our Namesake: Our Lady of Altagracia
Based on the Catholic tradition of Marian devotions — which include prayers or prayerful practices to honor the Blessed Mother, Mary in a particular way– Mary is represented under different names in various parts of the world. “Our Lady of Altagracia” is the name for the Blessed Mother, associated with the Marian devotion of the Dominican Republic.
As tradition goes, a 16th-century merchant who always brought something back for his daughter was struggling to find something to bring that would represent the specific image of the Blessed Mother that his daughter had seen in her dreams. While the merchant was sharing this dilemma with others at an inn on his way home to Higuey, Dominican Republic, an older man overheard him and went to get a 13 x 18 inch image of Our Lady of Altagracia, or “Our Lady of High Grace” and gave it to the merchant to bring home to his daughter. In the image, Mary is pictured with a crown, surrounded by stars and beams of light or flames, watching over the baby Jesus, with Joseph looking on in the background. The image is said to have disappeared and reemerged in a nearby orange grove over and over until a church was built in the orange grove.
Our Lady of Altagracia is seen as the Protectress of the Dominican Republic and her feast day is celebrated on January 21st. Our Lady of Altagracia is a comfort, protector, and inspiration to many, especially many Dominican immigrants who reside in Northern Manhattan and we pray for her guidance and protection in this work of putting faith into action to build the kingdom of God on earth; to build a more just and peaceful society and to begin locally wherever we are, whether in an orange grove in the Dominican Republic or in this community of Northern Manhattan.
Altagracia Faith and Justice Works emerged as a new organization from the resounding affirmation of the importance of this community work in Northern Manhattan. Founded in 2017 after the closing of its predecessor organization which dated back to 2006, Altagracia Faith and Justice Works was founded to continue working with the largely immigrant and Latino community of Northern Manhattan. With renewed interest and support from both long-time as well as new community partners, local parishes, and community coalitions, these stakeholders formed a new nonprofit entity and assumed new leadership positions to ensure that this critical mission continue; to empower community leaders to put faith into action, to promote social justice through faith formation, leadership development, service and advocacy opportunities, and through community organizing to effect essential local change.
Though our organization is rooted in Catholic Social Teaching and a strong faith-based and spiritual tradition, our programs and outreach are open to all, regardless of religious affiliation.