Editor’s Note: During the pre-Christmas celebration of Simbang Gabi by the Filipino Catholic community in Saskatoon Dec. 15-23, donations were collected for Prison Ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon, for The Bridge inner city outreach organization, and for Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre.
By Arnel-Libay Mendoza
Filipinos have migrated to Saskatoon, Canada, as embroiderers, nurses, doctors, caregivers, welders, food servers, nannies, cleaners, etc., but along the way, we found a joint mission. That mission is to share the light of Christ.
From the third largest Catholic country in the world, with donations often needed to aid the poor and the victims of natural calamities back home, the time has come to show that we are also capable of offering something — maybe not that big, but big enough to show our faith and to witness how we are called to be men and women living for others.
Some of us, like myself, are hesitant to express ourselves because of communication barriers, inferiority complex, or probably economic status, but expressing our faith allows us to radiate what we want to say and what is inside our hearts.
During the first Simbang Gabi, I was touched by one guy who just migrated to Saskatoon from the Philippines in June 2019. He came here to support the education of his nieces and nephews. I was amazed and inspired by his faith, knowing that he is just earning enough to pay his rent and meals with the minimum wage as a food server at Tim Hortons. He is the one who stood and offered a box of diapers for the Pregnancy Options Centre.
Sometimes, when we are called to help someone, we reason out that we are not rich enough to help others. We might say: “When I win the Lotto, I will help others,”or “If I find a rich man or woman to marry, then, I can help,” and other strange alibis. Just like the message for us last Sunday in celebration of the feast of Epiphany: the shepherd offered what was available from his humble place and the three Kings offered what they had. Being a gift to someone who doesn’t mean buying expensive things. We can pray for them; we can listen to them, read the word of God, offer word or encouragement, volunteer and donate whatever is available.
We might have different cultures, colors, and status in life, but giving our talent, time, and treasures will break these barriers. They will unite us by transcending – not denying, but using diversity – into a higher form of unity of love, not division.
Simbang Gabi is our expression of our faith, our fully active and conscious participation in giving glory to God. May our gestures be our act of worship, may these be our offering to God, and may our faith be our liturgy to show our faith so that others live.
Let our songs be our expressions of thanksgiving, especially for those unspoken prayers of our community. May we be a gift to others, as we received the most precious gift from God, his son Jesus.
Editor’s Note: Simbang Gabi is a novena of special Masses before Christmas traditionally held in the Philippines. In Saskatoon, the Simbang Gabi celebrations were held in a different parish each night, followed by a potluck meal. Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided on the final evening Dec. 23, 2019 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, and after Mass helped to serve the Lechón (also spelled litson or lichon), a traditional dish of the Philippines.
Lea Mariano coordinated Simbang Gabi this year, with photography by Roland Macana, and choir direction by Robert Enriquez.