Simbang Gabi Comes to Saint Mary Mokena

Saint Mary Mokena was filled to the brim on Sunday, December 16 as the church hosted its very first Simbang Gabi Mass and reception. Simbang Gabi is a nine-day Philippine Catholic tradition that celebrates the anticipation of Christ’s birth.

Parole Star
Father Dindo holds a Philippine parol, which is a star-shaped Christmas lantern made from bamboo and paper and represents the Star of Bethlehem.

Dating to the sixteenth century Philippines, this Advent novena originally lasted from December 16-24, with Masses held every day in the early morning.

Since then, Filipinos have continued the novena around the world, including here in the United States, where their songs and customs have become popular with Catholics from all backgrounds.

Saint Mary hosted the third day of this nine-day novena with an evening Mass. Father Dindo presided, joined by Father Sunny Castillo. Roughly 800 people attended.

At the beginning of Mass, three “parols,” or star-shaped Christmas lanterns resembling the Star of Bethlehem, were placed beside the altar. A special Philippine Simbang Gabi choir, dressed in traditional Barong Tagalog shirts, sang worship songs both in English and Tagalog.

After Mass, everyone was invited to the church hall for a free Philippine dinner, which included cultural favorites like pancit noodles, lumpia shanghai (Filipino eggrolls), and bibingka cassava dessert (baked rice cake), made by Father Dindo’s mom and sister.

The line for food stretched all the way upstairs to the narthex. Saint Mary volunteers dedicated their time to serving the seemingly endless stream of hungry churchgoers, as an estimated 400 poured into the hall.

“This was a very successful first Simbang Gabi at St. Mary parish in Mokena [and] we had a very joyful third night of our Advent Novena!” says Father Dindo. “Many thanks to our concelebrant, Fr. Sunny Castillo, and Deacon Nabil Halaby! Thanks to our awesome seminarian, Bro. John Abulag! Special thanks to our deacon candidates Dave Stanton and Tom Morrison for helping with the Liturgy! It was an awesome night!”

Here are some more pictures from the event:

Simbang Gabi dinner
Guests wearing traditional Barong Tagalog shirts enjoy Philippine food during the Simbang Gabi dinner.


Pancit and Lumpia
Pancit noodles (left) and lumpia shanghai (a Filipino egg roll) were two of the main entrées.
Filipino food
Mmmmm, can I have seconds, please? Shown on the plate is pancit, lumpia shanghai, white rice and menudo, a meat and potato stew dish.
Philippine desserts
Don’t forget dessert! On the left is bibingka cassava, a baked rice cake from the Philippines made by Father Dindo’s mom and sister. On the right is maja blanca, a coconut pudding.

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