Filipino Catholics prepare for Christmas with nine-day Mass devotion

| December 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

Dodge Flores remembers the nine-day tradition from when he was a child in the Philippines: waking early, going to Mass at the parish church and eating breakfast with fellow Catholics, all in the days leading up to Christmas.

And while it’s been more than four decades since he immigrated to the United States, he and other Filipino Catholics are just a few years into their efforts to establish the full devotion in the Twin Cities.

This year, nine different parishes around the metro area will host Masses for the tradition, known as “Simbang Gabi,” meaning “Mass at dawn.” As in the Philippines, most of the Masses will be followed by food. But they’ll take place in the evening, when people are more likely able to attend.

“It’s the spirit of the upcoming Christmas,” said Flores, 72, president of the Filipino Catholic Community of Minnesota, which organizes the event.

“One of our missions of the Filipino Catholic Community of Minnesota is to (promote) the religious culture of the Philippines,” Flores said, noting that Simbang Gabi does that. “People are coming and excited about it.”

In the Philippines, the series of Masses takes place over the nine days leading up to Christmas. Because it’s a challenge to schedule additional Masses in parishes the week before Christmas, the local Simbang Gabi ends with a special 10th Mass not on Christmas Eve, but on the Saturday before Christmas, Dec. 21 this year.

That 6 a.m. Mass is the only one in the local novena that will begin before sunrise. It’s known as the “Misa de Gallo,” or the “Rooster’s Mass,” a name adopted during the former Spanish rule of the Philippines.

As a nine-day devotion, the Mass series is also a novena to Mary, and it brings together family and the parish, according to a FAQ about the Mass prepared by the Filipino Catholic Community of Minnesota.

While local Filipino Catholics have celebrated some of the Masses associated with the novena since the Filipino Catholic Community of Minnesota formed in 1995, this is the third year it’s held all nine, Flores said. Attendance varies each night from 50 to 150 people, he said. 

And while it’s organized by the Filipino community, all Catholics are invited to the celebration, he said. The Masses will be prayed primarily in English.

Unlike some immigrant groups, Filipino Catholics are not concentrated in one part of the Twin Cities, Flores said, which is why the Simbang Gabi Masses are being held in a different parish each evening.

The Filipino Catholic Community of Minnesota also organizes a Mass in Tagalog at 3 p.m. on the last Sunday of each month. Father Victor Valencia, pastor of St. Jerome in Maplewood, serves as the community’s chaplain.

Simbang Gabi Masses will be held at the following parishes:

  • 7 p.m. Dec. 12: Guardian Angels, Oakdale
  • 7 p.m. Dec. 13: St. Odilia, Shoreview
  • 4:30 p.m. Dec. 14: St. Jerome, Maplewood
  • 7 p.m. Dec. 15: St. Bonaventure, Bloomington
  • 7 p.m. Dec. 16: Pax Christi, Eden Prairie
  • 7 p.m. Dec. 17: St. Joseph, New Hope
  • 7 p.m. Dec. 18: St. Louis King of France, St. Paul
  • 6 p.m. Dec. 19: Epiphany, Coon Rapids
  • 7 p.m. Dec. 20: St. John Neumann, Eagan
  • 6 a.m. Dec. 21: “Misa de Gallo,” Guardian Angels, Oakdale;
    5:30 a.m. caroling by the Cultural Society of Filipino Americans. A meal follows Mass;
    please bring a dish to share.

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Category: Local News