REGINA — Holy Child Church Dec. 23 was packed with about 300 people, almost all of them Filipino; they came to celebrate the last day of Simbang Gabi (Christmas Novena). The nine-day event began Dec. 15 and attracted an average of 250-300 people according to Holy Child pastor Rev. Danilo Rafael, who is of Filipino heritage.
“I started this nine years ago when I was at St. Mary’s,” he said in an interview with the PM. “I wanted to bring a little bit of our tradition here.” He brought the tradition with him when he transferred to Holy Child.
The Dec. 23 celebration was sponsored by the Regina chapter of El Shaddai, a Catholic Charismatic movement that originated in the Philippines in the late 20th century and now boasts more than six million followers in the Philippines and chapters in at least 65 nations with an additional two million members, according to the Internet. El Shaddai is one of many names for God and is literally translated as God Almighty. The movement encourages traditional church prayers such as the rosary and the Angelus.
Chapter members were highly visible during the evening mass with even children wearing red tops with an El Shaddai crest clearly visible, and white slacks or skirts. The El Shaddai choir provided the music and the readers for the mass celebrated by Rev. Lorne Crozon filling in for the ailing Archbishop Daniel Bohan. Several Filipino priests concelebrated the mass, including Rafael. Crozon also brought Christmas greetings from the archbishop.
The music within the mass was in English, but all other hymns and Christmas carols were sung in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, including one performed by five-year-old Alejandro Gahite who never missed a beat as he sang multiple verses with confidence.
When the priests and servers left the altar after mass, El Shaddai children, a few of the youngest dressed in costumes representing Mary, Joseph and all the characters usually represented in the crib scene, performed a traditional dance to upbeat music with dancers shaking tambourines as they danced. The performance was greeted with enthusiastic applause when it ended.
A potluck supper with traditional foods was available following the mass and children’s performance.