Nine churches will host ‘Simbang Gabi’ pre-Christmas novena of Masses Dec. 14-22

Catholics hold up "parols," or Christmas lanterns, for blessing during a “Simbang Gabi” Mass in Seattle. The novena of pre-Christmas Masses, popular among Filipinos, will be hosted by nine Peoria-area churches Dec. 14-22. (CNS file photo)

One of the oldest and most revered pre-Christmas traditions in the Philippines, “Simbang Gabi,” will be observed in nine parishes of the Diocese of Peoria from Dec. 14-22.

“Simbang Gabi” is Filipino for “Night Mass,” and the 2023 observance — coordinated by the Filipino-American Catholic Community — will include a novena of nine evening Masses at different churches in preparation for the birth of Jesus.

The first Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Louis Tylka at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Masses on the next eight evenings will be celebrated at the following locations:

  • Friday, Dec. 15 — St. Mark Church, Peoria, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 16 — St. Joseph Church, Peoria, 5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 17 — St. Vincent de Paul Church, Peoria, 5 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 18 — St. Monica Church, East Peoria, 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 19 — St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Peoria Heights, 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 20 — Blessed Sacrament Church, Morton, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 21 — St. Philomena Church, Peoria, 6 p.m., and
  • Friday, Dec. 22 — Holy Family Church, Peoria, 5 p.m. A potluck reception will follow in the school gym.

Snacks-to-go will be provided after each Mass of the novena, and a collection will be received for the host parishes.

When introduced by the Spanish missionaries more than 500 years ago when Catholicism took root in the Philippines, “Simbang Gabi” Masses were celebrated at dawn to accommodate farmers. While that practice continues there — complete with decorations of colorful lights and native delicacies like rice cakes, bibingka, and puto — in the United States the Masses are celebrated in the evening to accommodate work schedules.

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