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Vatican Appointee, Philippines Archbishop Bernardito Auza to Preside at Simbang Gabi Commissioning Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 15, 2014) – The Filipino Ministry Consultative Board (FMCB) announced that Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, will be the Presider  at the 7th Annual Simbang Gabi Commissioning Mass at the St. Mary’s Cathedral on December 3, 2014, at 7:30pm. The Mass includes a rite that “sends forth” the Filipinos to be the light of their parishes  and communities as they prepare for the centuries-old tradition  of Simbang Gabi.

Archbishop Auza said he “is delighted to be in the Bay Area to celebrate  Simbang Gabi,” in response to the invitation  relayed by Rev. Arnold Zamora who contacted  him.  The Archbishop hails from Bohol, Philippines.

Simbang Gabi, a novena (from the Latin word novem, which means nine) of Masses in preparation for Christmas, was first introduced in the Philippines by the Spanish missionaries around 1587.   This tradition to hold pre-Christmas dawn Masses outdoors to accommodate farmers  has been a cherished tradition in the Philippines  for over four centuries, a distinct feature of Philippine culture and a collective expression  of faith, hospitality and community spirit amongst the Filipinos.

In the Archdiocese of San Francisco where  approximately 25% of the congregation  are Filipinos, the celebration of Simbang Gabi saw its rise in early 2000.  Before then, approximately 16 parishes  had Simbang Gabi Masses in chapels and church halls, until a multi-parish collaboration began in St. Stephen’s Parish.  As of 2013, Simbang Gabi Masses were held in 42 out of 91 parishes in the Archdiocese, either by a parish or with other  parishes.

Philippine-born churchgoers reminisce  about the early morning walk to church along street-lined stalls with the aroma of brewing salabat (ginger tea), bibingka, puto bumbong and suman (a variety of rice cakes) wrapped in crackling banana leaves, with throngs  of school children,  neighbors and friends  march with the band that roused  people from sleep.  But it is perhaps  this beat of the community walking together to church that distinguishes it from all other  walks to market, school or to the town.  It is the collective expression of faith, honoring and thanking the One who guides, inspires,  enlightens and redeems,  that has sustained Simbang Gabi throughout the centuries.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco covers the counties of San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo. There are approximately over half a million Catholics in the archdiocese, with over 20 different cultural  ministries. FMCB, headed  by Rev. Eugene Tungol, provides  planning, support, advocacy and coordination of various Filipino parish-related organizations, programs, and activities within the Archdiocese.

Nellie Hizon, Coordinator
(415) 699-7927

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