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Simbang Gabi celebration to begin with vigil Mass Dec. 14


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SAN DIEGO — The diocese’s annual Filipino holiday tradition of Simbang Gabi will begin with a special vigil Mass that also will mark the beginning of the 500th anniversary celebration of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. The tradition of Simbang Gabi is one of the legacies of faith handed down by the Spanish missionaries to the Filipinos.

San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy will celebrate the outdoor Mass, which will be livestreamed on Monday, Dec. 14, starting at 6 p.m. He will be accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops John Dolan and Ramón Bejarano, Vicar General Father Michael Pham and Filipino clergy.

Simbang Gabi (Filipino for “Night Masses”) is traditionally a novena of Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the faithful prepare with and accompany her as she awaits the birth of her Son.

The vigil Mass, organized for the first time at the diocese, has the theme of “Lighting the Way to Christ: A Legacy of Faith.” The evening will begin with a procession of parols, colorful star-shaped lanterns, that remind the faithful, like the star of Bethlehem, that Jesus is the “Light of the World” and present among them. Afterward, there will be the recitation of the rosary, followed by the Mass by candlelight.

Beginning Dec. 16, Simbang Gabi services will be held in parishes across the diocese. Schedules vary in the parishes and may be in the early mornings or in the evenings. Due to COVID, parishes have modified or even canceled their annual traditions. Please check the webpage for a complete schedule and for the link for the livestreamed Mass.

Filipinos invite everyone to share their beautiful Advent-Christmas tradition observed not only in the Philippines but by communities around the world.

The Philippines is home to Asia’s largest Catholic population, with about 81 percent of its estimated population of some 100 million identifying themselves as Catholics. Filipinos celebrate the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines “not as a reminder of how we were colonized but of how Filipinos embraced the Catholic faith,” said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Archdiocese of Manila last year.

Father Pham leads the diocese’s Office for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities and the Diocesan Commission for Filipino Catholics, which is coordinating Simbang Gabi.

For more information, contact Alejandra Diaz at (858) 490-8306 or


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