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Bishop joins Santo Nino fest set for St. Anthony
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A concelebrated mass in observance of the feast of the Santo Nino will be held at 11 a.m. this Saturday at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca.

Bishop Stephen E. Blair of the Diocese of Stockton will preside over the mass along with other priests including St. Anthony’s pastor, Father Pat Walker, and parish vicar Father Dante Dammay.

The Santo Nino (Holy Child) is the oldest religious Christian image in the Philippines and is revered by many Filipino Catholics who believe that it is miraculous. Its feast day is widely celebrated in the Philippines, and in the United States. Devotees in St. Anthony’s parish have held annual observances of this feast day in past year, but this is the biggest one so far and the first to be attended by the bishop.

The Santo Nino is what Our Lady of Guadalupe is to the Mexican community and the Pentecost (Holy Ghost festa) to the Portuguese groups.

“What these three celebrations have in common is not that they are three unique celebrations of three specific communities. What they all have in common is that they are our celebrations as Catholics. The celebration of Santo Niño offers a great illustration of this point,” wrote Faith Formation Director David  Corder in the Jan. 4 Parish Bulletin.

“The celebration of Santo Niño isn’t simply a ‘Filipino celebration’ for Filipinos, any more than the Pentecost celebration is for Portuguese, or the Virgin Guadalupe is for Mexicans. It’s a Catholic celebration of faith for Catholics. It’s our celebration that has survived hundreds of years because of a gift (even the gift) of baptism from a Portuguese Catholic to a Filipino Catholic. It’s a Catholic celebration,” Corder further explained.

The small religious icon – it measures only approximately 12 inches tall – is steeped in history that originated in Flanders, Belgium, where the Santo Nino was originally made, to the island of Cebu in the Philippines where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan through Antonio Pigafetta gave the statue as a baptismal gift to Lady Humamay, the chief consort of Rajah Humabon. These facts are known from historical records.

The Santo Nino is the official patron of Cebu.

Saturday’s celebration is expected to draw a big crowd, so those planning to attend the mass are advised to arrive early.

Following the mass will be a reception in the gym where a wide variety of Filipino cuisine – including pancit (noodles), lumpia (eggroll), and lechon (roasted pig) will be served.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church is located at the corner of East North Street and Fremont Avenue.