Vatican appointee, PH Archbishop Auza, to lead Simbang Gabi in San Francisco

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Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

SAN FRANCISCO –Filipino Archbishop Bernardito Auza, appointed by the Vatican as Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, will preside at the 7th Annual Simbang Gabi Commissioning Mass at the St. Mary’s Cathedral on December 3, at 7:30 p.m.

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, the Filipino Ministry Consultative Board (FMCB) announced.

Archbishop Auza said he “is delighted to be in the Bay Area to celebrate with us,” 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 nearly a quarter of the congregation is Filipino, 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 mult-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 marching 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,” FMCB explained in a press release.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco covers the counties of San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo. More than half a million Catholics are 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.

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