1,000 Candles on the River Walk to Light the Way for La Procesión de San Antonio

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Sister Agnes holds her candle during the candlelight vigil.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Organizers expect more than 1,000 people to line the banks of the San Antonio River holding candles during the river procession.

After an evening mass at San Fernando Cathedral, three river barges on Wednesday night will depart from the nearby San Antonio River Walk dock off Main Plaza carrying a choir, mariachi, Catholic school children, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, other clergy, and Tricentennial officials.

They’ll take a historic ride on the San Antonio River to celebrate the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua – San Antonio’s namesake saint – and the city’s 300th birthday. The Archdiocese of San Antonio is asking residents of any creed to help light the way for the first-of-its-kind river procession. RSVP here.

Six stations will be set up along the river’s loop where volunteers will be handing out candles to anyone who wants to participate. Archdiocese organizers expect more than 1,000 people to line the banks of the San Antonio River holding candles.

“The archbishop wanted something special for the Tricentennial, especially since the 1718 founding event was a Catholic mission established by a Franciscan priest,” Father David Garcia, archdiocese director of the Old Spanish Missions, told the Rivard Report. “The interfaith event on May 1 [during the Tricentennial Commemorative Week] was a great success, and we wanted another event to follow up on the sacredness of the 300 years for our city.”

The mass will start at 7:30 p.m. at 115 Main Plaza. The archbishop will leave the cathedral around 8:45 or 9 p.m. and walk through the plaza to the river, according to a news release. “Lining the way through the plaza will be Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, Alhambras, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Knights of Peter Claver, as well as others,” it states.

The archbishop and others will board the barges and embark on their journey eastward toward the statue of St. Anthony, created by Portuguese sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, near the Shops at Rivercenter. There, the convoy will pause while García-Siller leads a prayer and the choir sings. The procession will then double back on its path to Main Plaza, stopping at Marriage Island for more prayer and song. The entire program on the river is expected to take an hour.

The archdiocese looked into whether a procession like this has been held on the river before, said Jordan McMorrough, director of communications. “We haven’t found anything like it. … This is very unique,” he said.

This map shows the route La Procesió de San Antonio will take on the River Walk Wednesday night.

Courtesy / Archdiocese of San Antonio

This map shows the route La Procesión de San Antonio will take on the River Walk Wednesday night. The stars indicate where volunteers will be passing out candles.

Maps and informational brochures will be handed out to attendees and passersby, McMorrough said, to help explain the ceremony.

“On June 13, 1691, the Spanish Governor of Texas led an expedition with
Franciscan missionaries across the wilderness. They planned a settlement on the
banks of the river (on the spot now known as “marriage island”) and named the
area after St. Anthony, whose feast day is June 13. In 1718, the Franciscans began
building the first mission and the governor established a Presidio; these grew into
the city of San Antonio,” the information reads.

Candles and water will be available starting at 8 p.m. at stations along the route, where volunteers will be wearing flashing star necklaces. Click here for more information.

“If you plan to attend mass at the cathedral, we recommend that you park in the Market Street Lot, so that you will have easy access to your car after the procession,” the archdiocese news release states. “From the cathedral you may collect your candle on the way out, cross the pedestrian bridge to the Drury Plaza Hotel, turn right and position yourself along the river after the first bend for the procession. If you miss getting a candle, there will be a station on the river near the Aztec Theatre.

“If your group is arriving by bus, your bus driver may park at the RK Group at 1220 E Commerce St. and wait there until you require pick up. Bus loading is recommended at River Center Mall or at Main Plaza.”

VIA Metropolitan Transit also services downtown, but only three routes are open until 11 p.m.

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