The third Sunday of January is set aside in the Philippines to celebrate the “Santo Niño” (or Holy Child Jesus), a symbol of the birth of Catholicism in the Philippines more than 500 years ago.
Incarnation Parish in Sarasota was host to the Diocese of Venice Santo Niño Festival on Jan. 21, 2024, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. Organized by the local Filipino Catholic Community (Senor Santo Niño Devotees of Manasota Florida, Inc.), more than 500 people participated in the Mass and Festival which celebrates an important conversion story. This was the third year for this Festival in the Diocese.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant for the Mass and said the Santo Niño Mass and Festival “is a wonderful example of a faith and culture coming together beautifully. You hear the call of Santo Niño to help fulfill your mission in life to serve the Lord.”
Bishop Dewane said the Diocese is richer for those who come from various countries and bring their faith and culture, and how celebrating the various important feast days serves as a bridge in one’s faith, connecting to their homeland.
The Feast Day celebration reminds Filipinos of the Christianization of their homeland in the 16th century but also enables them to see the relevance that this devotion to the Santo Niño has for people to this day, whether they are living in the Philippines or in elsewhere. The Feast places a special emphasis on the children and youth, with all the hopes they raise.
The Mass opened with the traditional presentation of the Santo Niño statue to Bishop Dewane. In addition, the faithful are encouraged to bring their own Santo Niño statue, or one purchased in the past year, to be blessed. This was also done at the opening of the Mass.
This builds upon the tradition of Filipino immigrants who brought their Santo Niño statues with them to the United States to be their spiritual recourse, assistant and protector.
Following the Mass, the celebration continued in the Parish Hall.