20th anniversary of local Santo Niño devotion set July 21 at St. Joseph, Peoria

The image of the infant Jesus revered as the Santo Niño de Cebu is carried in procession at St. Joseph Church in Peoria. (The Catholic Post file photo)

The Filipino-American community in central Illinois will gather on Saturday, July 21, at St. Joseph Church in Peoria to mark the 20th anniversary of the enthronement of the image of Santo Niño de Cebu there. The festivities will begin with a Mass at 5:30 p.m. celebrated by Father Alexander Millar, parochial vicar of the parishes in the Heart of Peoria Catholic Community.

Those who attend are welcome to bring their own icons of the Infant Jesus and carry them in procession behind the Blessed Sacrament and the statue of the Santo Niño de Cebu. A blessing and Benediction will follow.

The evening includes a Filipino reception in the parish hall at 103 S. Richard Pryor Place.

In preparation for the celebration, the community will gather to pray a novena at 6 p.m. each day from Thursday, July 12, through Friday, July 20. It will take place in the Father Clair Bourdereaux Hall at Sacred Heart Church, 504 Fulton St., in Peoria.

The Santo Niño devotion originated in the Philippines and came from Cebu. The oldest city in that country, it is also known as the “Queen City of the South.”

The image that is revered as the Santo Niño de Cebu is said to have been given to Queen Juana after her baptism in the early 1500s and replaced the idols she had at home. It was preserved for posterity and rediscovered during an expedition led by Miguel de Legaspi in 1564.

The statue was temporarily placed in a chapel and was eventually enthroned in the Augustinian church in Cebu.

The devotion to the Infant Jesus has become widespread and many Filipinos keep statues in their homes. It is tradition for the statue of the Santo Niño de Cebu to face the door, greeting anybody who comes to visit.

January is the Santo Niño festival month in the Philippines and wherever devotees reside, with celebrations taking place on the third Sunday of January. In Peoria, the festivities are held in July because that is when the Santo Niño image was enthroned at St. Joseph Church.

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