Sunday, December 5, 2010

3 Kuwait churches to hold Simbang Gabi for OFWs

Parched and thirsty in the desert of loneliness, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait will get a longed-for mirage of home when three churches in that Middle Eastern country will hold Simbang Gabi or dawn Masses.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced that this will be the first time that the Simbang Gabi will be held in three churches, found in three different districts of the capital city, Kuwait.

In an article posted Sunday on its news site, the CBCP said the Masses will be held at the Holy Family Cathedral in Safat, Our Lady of Arabia in Ahmadi and the St. Therese Parish in Salmiya.

Fr. Ben Barrameda Jr., the only Filipino priest in the Apostolic Vicariate of Kuwait, said the tradition of holding early morning masses began in Kuwait some 10 years ago, when it was brought to that smallest of Middle Eastern countries by Filipino workers, who now number about 200,000.

Barrameda said this year’s theme is “Matatagpuan tayo ng Diyos…sa pamamagitan ni Kristo Hesus (God will meet us… through Christ)."

The time and date that the Masses will be held, however, will depart from tradition in the Philippines, where Masses begin before dawn.

Filipino custom dictates that Christmas Day is ushered in by the nine-day dawn Masses that start on December 16.

Known as the Misa de Gallo ("Rooster's Mass") in Spanish and in Filipino as Simbang Gabi, or "Night Mass," this novena of masses is an important Filipino Christmas tradition.

In Kuwait, Masses will begin at 9:30 p.m. starting December 15 at the Our Lady of Arabia and the St. Therese churches.

“Fr. Fred Micua will celebrate the ‘dawn Masses’ at the Our Lady of Arabia, while two other Filipino priests will celebrate Masses at St. Therese in Salmiya, a thickly populated residential district," Barrameda said.

Masses at the Holy Family Cathedral parish and Our Lady of Arabia will begin at 5 a.m. instead of the traditional 5:30 a.m.

The schedule of Masses was changed upon the request of Filipino workers who report to work very early in the morning, he said.

“With the steady influx of Filipino migrant workers to Kuwait, (Filipinos) expect the churches to be standing-room only," the priest said.

“Big halls will be opened to accommodate more Filipino faithful," he added.

Simbang Gabi Masses begin before dawn, since going to mass this early for nine consecutive days is meant to show churchgoers’ devotion and faith in God, even as it heightens the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Filipinos believe that god will grant devotees their special wishes if they complete the nine-day novena masses.

It is also a tradition for Filipinos to partake of holiday fare after hearing mass — either during breakfast at home or immediately outside the church where they are sold.

Street vendors offer native delicacies like bibingka (native pan), puto bumbong (rice cake), salabat (ginger ale) and tsokolate (native chocolate drink). - DM/KBK, GMANews.TV

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