NEW YORK – After a two-year ban, the traditional “Simbang Gabi sa Konsulado” is back for good.
“It’s the only time that people from all walks of life, and from Connecticut, Philadelphia, and counties that are far away, they can converge in the Philippine Consulate and enjoy the mass,” said Lumen Casteneda, an organizer for the event.
In 2012, after more than two decades of celebrating Misa De Gallo inside the Philippine Consulate, the Archdiocese of New York required the Filipino community to celebrate this Pinoy tradition at cathedrals or nearby Parish churches only.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan cited the Catholic Cannon law that says masses should only be held inside sacred grounds.
But early this year, Dolan lifted the ban after community leader Loida Nicolas Lewis wrote him a letter and asked him to reconsider his “decision that created a negative impression among Filipino-American.”
And so he did.
“We are grateful that we have this privilege to be able to worship in our territory consulate,” said Monsignor Oscar Aquino, “and that is very, very important for all of us Filipinos, by the way, wherever Jesus is, that’s the Holy place.”
“The Filipino community’s very happy that Simbang Gabi has gone back here,” said Mario De Leon, Philippine Consul General, “as far as they are concerned, the Philippine Consulate, the Philippine Center, is their home away from the Philippines.”
Included in their prayers Sunday night is the safety of Filipinos living on the path of Philippine storm Ruby.
A number of these Simbang Gabi goers are natives of Samar.
“I’m from Borongan, Eastern Samar,” said Liza Galon. “Thank God sa mga prayers, although we have baha, may mga flooding duon, at saka may mga houses na nasira, but lives were saved because of the evacuation, nakinig naman ang mga tao.”
For nine consecutive days, the pre-Christmas masses will be celebrated at the consulate’s Kalayaan Hall at 6:45 p.m. on weekdays and at 3 p.m. on weekends.