Bishop Malloy Opens Fox Valley Simbang Gabi
By Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
December 20, 2018
HUNTLEY—“The opening of Simbang Gabi is a sign that the Lord is near,” said Bishop David Malloy, “and the third rose candle of Advent reminds us all of hope and joy.”
In anticipation of what was to come, both excitement and reverence was apparent among more than 800 members of the Fox Valley Filipino community gathered for Mass at St. Mary Parish, here, to begin their  Christmas tradition on Dec. 15.
Simbang Gabi features a devotional novena during nine consecutive evenings of Masses at different Fox Valley parishes through Dec. 23. Fox Valley Filipino-American Catholic Ministry sponsors the events.
The same custom is celebrated in the Rockford area where members of the Greater Rockford Filipino-American Catholic Community organize the Masses.
The prayers lead to Christmas Day and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The opening Mass was celebrated by Bishop Malloy along with Father Max Striedl, pastor; Father Sean Grismer and Father Plutarco Rodriguez, parochial vicars at St. Mary; Father Perfecto Vasquez, director of the diocesan Filipino ministry; and diocesan Filipino priests.
Bishop Malloy reflected on the day’s Gospel of Luke 3:10 when the crowd asks St. John the Baptist “what should we do?” 
“These lessons are good for us today,” he said. “Be satisfied with your food, house, job, spouse and family. Let go. Do not always look for more.”
He praised the Filipino community for their devotion to Simbang Gabi and urged them to “continue your culture of faith, family, food and dress. Use it to receive Christ again.”
The Mass included the music and voices of the Sambayanihan Filipino Choir from St. Mary and a solo of “Silent Night” by cantor Roland Adams. The church was still as Adams sang, and people burst into spontaneous applause at its conclusion. 
Bishop Malloy later called Adams’ performance “magnificent.”
Part of the Simbang Gabi tradition includes the presentation of colorful banners with a star representing the Star of Bethlehem. Each depicts the name of one of the 10 churches involved in this year’s Fox Valley Simbang Gabi. 
Representatives from each parish also presented Bishop Malloy with offertory gifts for the poor, which were placed before the altar.
Following Mass, everyone was invited to enjoy popular Filipino Asian delicacies. Long lines formed filled with families and children who waited for their favorites. One is pancit, a noodle dish with vegetables and meat. 
Guests were entertained with music and watched traditional dances performed by children and adults.
During fellowship time, Caroline Pasetes said, “We have such a great turnout this evening for our opening night.” 
Her remarks were echoed by many in attendance. 
“We are all united in our culture and the celebration of our faith,” said Erin Saulog, as she waited in line for food with her friends and contemporary peers. 
“I love how we all come together,” added John Andres. 
Members of Sambayanihan Filipino-American Ministry of St. Mary Catholic Church hosted the evening.