MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato (MindaNews/20 January) – Catholics celebrated the feast of the Santo Niño on Sunday to mark the 75th year of the town as the first parish run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in the country.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo said the mass that highlighted the biggest religious event in this town which is also the first parish established by the OMI in the then undivided empire province of Cotabato.
It was Quevedo’s first mass in this town, which came a few days after the Vatican named him as among the new cardinals.
Quevedo, who belongs to the OMI, called the feast of the Santo Niño a celebration of faith for Catholics worldwide.
“The celebration of faith is not just for the Christians but for the Filipinos as well. This is not just among the Filipinos but for the thousands of Catholics in the world who value the Santo Niño,” the cardinal said in the vernacular.
In his homily Quevedo said the Santo Niño continues to be the Lord of blessings in the last 75 years for the people of Midsayap. “Let us continue to pray that He will continue to bless us.”
He also asked the parishioners to be thankful and keep on praying for the missionaries and church workers who were behind the establishment of the first OMI-run parish in the Philippines.
Among them, he said, were Fr. Egide Beaudion and Fr. Gerard Mongeau, who came with five other OMI pioneers.
Mongeau would later become the first archbishop of Cotabato.
Aside from Beaudion, Quevedo said the people should not forget the other OMI missionaries who served the parish — Fr. Joseph Billman, Fr. Edward Gordon, Rev. Fr. Francis McSorley and Rev. Fr. Joseph Baynes.
“In a special way, let us remember Bishop Ben de Jesus who was gunned down in Jolo [in Sulu]. In his priesthood, he served as rector of Notre Dame of Midsayap College at the same time assisted the parish.”
Quevedo also acknowledged the help of the religious sisters in the parish.
“Let us remember and be grateful with the first lay leaders of Midsayap after the World War. They were the foundation of the enthusiasm and unwavering lay leaders today,” he noted.
Over the weekend, thousands gathered in this rice producing town for the feast of the Santo Niño, which is known as Halad (Offering) Festival, arguably the biggest and most colorful and biggest festival in the province.
For years, local Catholics, more particularly Santo Niño devotees would prepare food for guests and even tourists as an offering to the patron saint. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)