|USVI Filipinos celebrate Feast of Santo Niño - Jan 17|
|2010 - Caribbean Church News|
|Thursday, 14 January 2010 16:47|
Filipinos and their friends will honour the Santo Niño de Cebú on both US Virgin Islands of St Croix and St Thomas with Masses this month.
Msgr George Tomichek of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA will celebrate the annual Santo Niño (Holy Child) Mass at Holy Cross Church on St Croix on Saturday, January 16, at 6 p.m. Msgr Antonio Verzosa of the Philippines will celebrate the Mass at Ss Peter and Paul Cathedral on St Thomas on Sunday, January 24, at 10:30 a.m. Bishop Herbert Bevard, will concelebrate both Masses.
As in previous years, Msgr Tomichek, who ministers to Filipino communities around the world, will be flown in by the local Filipino community to celebrate the Mass.
The Filipino community on St Thomas will prepare for the Santo Niño Mass by gathering as a community in the homes of nine families to pray devotions to the Santo Niño beginning January 15. The Mass at the cathedral is a first on that island, where the Filipino community has grown dramatically in recent years. Msgr Verzosa, parochial vicar at the cathedral, has been in the Virgin Islands for one year and celebrated the Virgin Islands’ first Mass in the Filipino language at St Anne Chapel on Christmas Day.
The Santo Niño celebrations in the Virgin Islands will highlight the faith, music and culture of the Philippines; receptions after the Mass will feature many traditional foods. The Santo Niño de Cebú, the wooden image of the Holy Child Jesus, is revered throughout the Philippines. The Feast of the Santo Niño is celebrated there on the third Sunday in January.
Statue of Santo Niño de Cebú
The statue of Santo Niño, considered the oldest religious relic in the Philippines, is housed in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in the province of Cebú in the Philippines. In the early 16th century the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the shores of Cebú, claiming the territory for Spain. The native chieftain of Cebú, King Humabon, and his wife, Queen Juana, pledged their allegiance to Spain and were later baptised into the Catholic faith. Magellan gave the statue of the Santo Niño to Queen Juana as a baptismal gift.
In the years that followed, Cebú was occupied by other forces; many of the villages were destroyed.
When the Spaniards returned to the Philippines 40 years after Magellan had first landed there, a soldier going through the ruins of a burned-out hut found the statue unharmed in a wooden box. The Augustinian friars on the island proclaimed the image of the Holy
Child miraculous and built a church on the site where it was found. The basilica that stands today dates from the mid-1700s after several earlier structures on the site were destroyed by fire.
The Santo Niño was long considered to be the patron “saint” of Cebú. However, since the Holy Child is a representation of Jesus, he cannot be considered a patron; in the absence of a patron, therefore, the Archbishop of Cebú, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of Cebú in 2002.
The devotion to the Santo Niño remains strong, however, and the Catholic Church in the Philippines sets the Holy Child as an example of humility and as a celebration of the Incarnation.
Although the Feast of the Santo Niño is held only once a year, devotion to the Holy Child is year-round in the Philippines. The image can be found in most homes. Indeed, most Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas season over until the feast in January. Today,
the Basilica del Santo Niño is a historical and religious landmark in Cebú, and devotees pay regular visits to the image.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There is a sizeable Filipino community residing here in Trinidad & Tobago.