Traditional pre-Christmas Simbang Gabi celebration affected by COVID-19 restrictions

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A beloved tradition from the Philippines with evening Mass being held in different city parishes over nine days before Christmas will continue in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon this year, but with reduced numbers and new registration procedures, necessary because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Simbang Gabi is a pre-Christmas novena of Masses held around the world — including last year at the Vatican for the first time.

This year, there will be no potluck meal after every Mass as there usually is, and numbers for each celebration will be restricted to the 30 persons permitted under existing government of Saskatchewan rules for public worship. Pre-registration is required.

Plans are in place to live-stream the Mass each evening.

During Simbang Gabi, donations will be collected for Development and Peace/ Caritas Canada for pandemic and typhoon relief efforts underway in the Philippines.

“We are coordinating with Development And Peace for us to help our brethren in the Philippines whose suffering is due to pandemic and two strong typhoons,” said Arnel Mendoza of Saskatoon, one of those working alongside Fr. Nestor Silva, pastor to the Filipino Catholic community in the diocese to organize this year’s Simbang Gabi.

The theme for the collection is “Gifted to Give During the Pandemic: A Fundraiser for Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses victims in the Philippines.”

“Many lost their livelihood during the pandemic and many lost their homes because of the Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. I hope we can help even with restrictions,” said Mendoza.

The 2020 Simbang Gabi celebrations will be held between Dec. 15 and Dec. 23 at various parish locations in Saskatoon, including St. Peter the Apostle Parish, St. Patrick Parish, St. Anne Parish, and the Cathedral of the Holy Family. The language of the celebration is Tagalog, a national language of the Philippines, with some English.