The Simbang Gabi is a Filipino tradition brought by the Spanish Friars in the Philippines in 1669. The Simbang Gabi is a series of novena masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Expectant Mother of God, and serve as a preparation for the commemoration of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior. Simbang Gabi is generally held before the break of dawn but for pastoral reasons anticipated evening Masses were celebrated. The Simbang Gabi are nights of celebration, communion and acts of solidarity.
The first of the masses was presided over by Bishop Bill Wright. On the nights that followed, the Eucharistic celebrations were led by Frs. Andrew Doohan, Geoff Mulhearn, Gordon Quinn, Matthew Muller, William Burston, Robert Searle, Gerard Mackie. Bishop-elect for Wollongong, Brian Mascord, led the people on the last Simbang Gabi. Music was organized by the Filipino Choir of Newcastle which included members from the Tongan Community. The celebrations gathered an average of 170 to 200 people every evening for nine days.
Fellowship followed after every Simbang Gabi. Australian and Filipino families from the Diocese and various social groups based in Newcastle brought scones, pastries, pasta, bread, cakes, spring rolls, rice noodles and Filipino delicacies. The events not only satisfied the people’s spiritual needs, they filled tummies too!
The Dean of the Cathedral, Andrew Doohan, had allocated all the money collection from this year’s Simbang Gabi to the Mission to Seafarers. With the Dean’s permission, another collection was made during one of the evenings to provide support to an Australian lady of Filipino descent.
Her family was badly affected by a super typhoon that hit the Philippines in mid-December. Their two-storey home was inundated by mud and - in one evening - her family lost all their belongings. To make matters worse, the super typhoon caused the death of four of her nephews and nieces.