Filipinos in the U.S. have adapted to the American culture but still maintain their Filipino culture, celebrate festivals, and preserve their customs mainly through organized Filipino-American groups. In 1975, the Texas Catholic Conference on Community Ethnic Affairs encouraged the organization of Texas ethnic groups to celebrate the unity of their Catholic Christian faith. Filipino Catholics in San Antonio responded by holding Filipino Cultural Awareness Masses up to 1986. In 1986 the Mass was celebrated at MacArthur Park by Rev. Frank Fidgeon, CSSR in thanksgiving for the peaceful "People Power" transition to a new administration in the Philippines.
In 1987 Filipino-American Catholics in San Antonio decided to hold an annual feast to honor the Santo Niño (Holy Infant). In June 1987, Rev. Frank Fidgeon, CSSR, celebrated the first Santo Niño Festival Mass at St. Joseph Church in downtown San Antonio. A San Antonio River procession of the Santo Niño statue and lunch at an oriental restaurant along the River Walk capped this event. Fr. Fidgeon suggested moving the festival day to January because of the intense summer heat. This coincides with the feast day for Santo Niño de Cebu in the Philippines on January 10th. The succeeding Santo Niño de Cebu Fiesta Masses have since been celebrated on the Saturday or Sunday closest to January 10th.
The Santo Niño Association (as it was called) grew in number as word spread through the Filipino community. The members met mainly as a prayer group and were always willing to say the Novena for anyone in need. After the 1992 Santo Niño Festival Mass, the newly elected officers decided the association needed to become a structured organization in order to grow and better venerate the Santo Niño. In late spring, a delegation paid a visit to His Excellency Archbishop Flores, D.D., who enthusiastically supported the idea of forming a Filipino-American Parish in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Fr. Gilbert Obin, CICM, the parish priest of San Martin de Porres accepted to support and advise the movement. Fr. Obin has a special affinity to the Filipinos because of his 18-year missionary work in northern Philiippines. On June 21, 1992, he celebrated the first regular Sunday Mass for the Senyor Santo Niño de Cebu Community. On January 13th, 1993, during the Santo Niño Festival Mass, Archbishop Flores, D.D., issued the official Decree under Canon Law creating a new Senyor Santo Niño de Cebu Parish honoring the Patron of the Philippines. He also allocated a fifteen acre parcel of land on which a church and a shrine would be built.
Throughout 1993 and 1994, the Parish grew under the guidance of Fr. Obin as our Pastor and the very kind use his parish facilities. The Filipino customs and traditions in the Mass were incorporated and joint masses with the San Martin de Porres Parish made very special occasions out of Easter Sunrise and Christmas Midnight Masses.
In July 1994, Rev. Ernest Palaming, OFM arrived from the Philippines to assume the duties as parish priest of Santo Niño and allow Fr. Obin to concentrate on his duties as the pastor of San Martin de Porres Parish. One of his accomplishments was the preparation of the land to allow the start of the church construction. However, Fr. Palaming had to return to the Philippines in March 1997 when his permission from his Religious Order expired. Archbishop Flores asked Fr. Gilbert Obin, CICM, to once again take the task of a pastor.
Fr. Obin immediately set out to secure the Archdiocesan approval for the construction of the Santo Niño Church. After reviewing several plans, one was finalized and the official ground breaking took place on October 19, 1997. Actual construction began in January 1998. Our Easter sunrise service was conducted both indoors and outdoors at the same time because the construction was not completed. Our celebrant, Fr. Romeo "Butch" Olivares, CICM, led our parishioners who were enclosed by four walls but were able to see the stars and the sunrise above them since we did not have a roof yet.
Construction was completed and the Official Dedication was conducted by His Excellency Archbishop Flores, D.D., on June 13th, 1998, one day after the 100th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence. During the dedication the Archbishop introduced Fr. Bert Selga, a Filipino diocesan priest, as our new parish priest.
Although the Santo Niño Youth group had been formed and active in past years, it was moving into our own church that really inspired them. The Youth Choir took on the music ministry for the first and second Sundays of the month. They attended retreats and represented the Santo Niño Parish at the Region X, National Catholic Youth Conferences. The opening of our own church was also the catalyst for the Santo Niño Religious Education program. The first year classes totaled 45 students, including 26 who received the Rite of Confirmation and 12 who received their First Communion. In November 1999, Fr. Selga returned home to the Philippines.
In January 2000 we started the new millennium with Fr. Martin Parayno, OSB, as the new parish priest. Later in the year, his order based in the Philippines, granted him another five years to guide Santo Niño parish. This energetic and young priest quickly gained the respect and support of the Filipino community. The continued growth and development of our parish is gloriously underway. We are very confident our future and the future of our Santo Niño Parish are filled with bright possibilities.
You can partner with Santo Niño in serving the body of Christ, evangelizing our community, and preserving Filipino traditions! There are many ways to serve. Volunteers are always welcome. For information on ways you can help, please contact the parish office at (210) 648-1705.