Welcome to Sambayanihan


We are a community of Filipino American families conscious of its own socio-cultural identity, growing intellectually and spiritually together thru the reception of the sacraments rooted in the scripture and devotion especially to Mother Mary but integrated in the community life of St Mary Parish (Alpha NJ).

Sambayanihan is a composite word. SAMBA refers to the worshipping and prayerful nature of this Christian Community. SAMBAYANAN is the Filipino word for community. BAYANIHAN refers to the spirit of solidarity, cooperation and service among the members of the community.

This site is a work in progress. Please help in building this by sending your comments, suggestions, photos, reflections, news and updates.



A Prayer for the New Year


Dear Lord,

We pray that this New Year will bring us closer to You.
May we take the time to get to know You.
Help us to truly celebrate the gifts You have graciously given us
and use them to serve You and spread Your word.

May we also see and love You in all the people we meet,
so that in turn, they can see You in us.

We know that all human relations take time
if they are to grow and deepen.
This is also true of our relations with You,
the Father and the Holy Spirit,
which must group over the course of our lives.

In this new year,
let us realize that every action of ours
no matter how great or small
enables us to be in touch with You.

Let us accept You in our lives,
in the way it pleases You,
as Truth, to be spoken,
as Life, to be lived,
as Light, to be lighted,
as Love, to be followed,
as Joy, to be given,
as Peace, to be spread about,
as Sacrifice, to be offered among our relatives,
friends, neighbors and all people.

Amen

St. Mary Parish Organizations


  • The following are just some of the different ministries in St Mary Church. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate. Please refer to the Weekly Bulletin for contact names and additional information.

    • Altar Rosary Society
      Meets every 4th Tuesday of each month at 7PM Mass followed by meeting in the Church Hall.

    • Adult Choir
      Thursdays at 7PM in Church. New members welcome - HS age and up.

    • Footprints Ministry (Cancer Support)
      2nd Monday of each month at 7PM in the Parish Center.

    • Martha's Table
      Assist parishioners with dinners after surgery, accident, death or when dealing with a long-term illness.

    • Mary's Helpers
      A group of parishioners available to help families with refreshments after a Funeral Mass.

    • Sanctuary Guild
      Each Thursday following the 8AM Mass.

    • Meals on Wheels
      Provides home delivered meals services to people in need. Refer to Bulletin for contact name.

    • Youth Choir
      Thursdays at 6 PM in the Church Hall.

    Contact Us


    If you would like to be added to our email list, or have any questions about "Sambayanihan ni Maria", please email us at SambayanihanniMaria@gmail.com.


    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Simbang Gabi


    SIMBANG GABI is one of the longest and most popular among the Filipino traditions in the country. It is when Catholic churches across the nation start to open their doors shortly before the break of dawn to welcome the faithful to the Simbang Gabi mass.

    Simbang Gabi or Mass at Dawn is a nine-day novena to the Blessed Mother. The novena begins December 16 as early as 4 in the morning and culminates with the “Misa de Gallo” on Christmas Eve to welcome the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. In some churches, the panuluyan is reenacted showing the effort of Joseph and Mary to find a suitable birthplace.

    ORIGIN
    Simbang Gabi traces its roots in Mexico when, in 1587, the Pope granted the petition of Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, to hold Christmas mass outdoors because the Church could not accommodate the huge number of people attending the evening mass.

    During the old times, the pre-dawn mass is announced by the ringing of the church bells. In some rural areas, an hour before the start of Simbang Gabi, a brass band plays Christmas music all over the town. It is also believed that parish priests would go far knocking on doors to wake and gather the faithful to attend the misa de gallo. Farmers as well as fishermen wake up early to hear the Gospel before going to their work and ask for the grace of good harvest.

    SIMBANG GABI NOW AND THEN
    The changing of times does not break the preservation of celebrating Simbang Gabi although it is celebrated in new ways. Still, the tradition of Simbang Gabi continues. Part of it are the colorful lights and lanterns that fill every streets. Beautiful parols are hung in every window. Songs of the season are played everywhere to warm the hearts. Families, friends and even individuals find its way going to the nearest church to attend the nine-day novena. Shortly after the misa de gallo, families gather in their homes to celebrate Noche Buena and feasted on various delicacies like queso de bola, bibingka, puto bungbong, or a drink of salabat or hot chocolate.

    SIGNIFICANCE
    Simbang Gabi has become one of the most popular traditions in the country. But it is not just a tradition that is celebrated because we need to do so. It is a significant moment not only because it strengthens relationships among family members but also because it is the time where our faith is intensified. This is the time where we mostly feel the presence of the Lord because it is the spiritual preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. It does not matter if one has the stamina to complete the novena or not, what really matters is what is inside the heart. The blessing does not depend on the number of mass attended, but what is important is the disposition of the person who receives the Lord’s blessing.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila

    On September 29,1637, San Lorenzo Ruiz professed his faith by martyrdom. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Manila and later canonized on October 28,1987. San Lorenzo Ruiz holds the distinction of being the first person beatified outside the Vatican. He also holds the honor of being the first Filipino saint, the "most improbable of saints," as Pope John Paul II described him during the canonization ceremony.

    Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was the kind of man who could die for God and religion a thousand times if he had to.  Lorenzo Ruiz was was a layman who worked as a calligrapher for the Dominican parish of Binondo, Manila. As an "escriba," he was exceptionally gifted, and the Dominican friars relied on him to transcribe baptismal, confirmation and marriage documents into the church's official books. He was also an active member of the Marian confraternity, a man the Dominicans described as someone "they could trust."

    The son of a Chinese father and Tagala mother who lived in the Parian district outside the city walls of Manila, Lorenzo Ruiz married a Tagala like his mother and had three children -- two sons and a daughter -- whose descendants are currently residents of the same area where the original Ruiz family lived.In 1636, Ruiz was implicated in a murder. He sought help from his Dominican superiors who believed in his innocence. In order to escape what they believed would have been an unjust prosecution for their protege, the Spanish friars immediately sent Ruiz on a missionary expedition outside of the Philippines. Initially, Ruiz thought he was being sent to Taiwan, where he believed his Chinese roots would enable him to start a new life. Little did he know that he and the missionary expedition led by Fray Domingo Ibanez was actually headed for Nagasaki, Japan, where feudalism was fanning the flames of Christian persecution. Lorenzo Ruiz was headed straight into the arms of death.

    He was arrested almost immediately upon his arrival in Japan in 1636, and subjected to torture by his Japanese captors for more than a year. Tied upside down by his feet and dropped into a well where sharp stakes lined the bottom, his torturers would stop just before he would be impaled, and thereupon try to convince him to renounce his faith.

    "Deny your faith and we will spare your life," his persecutors said.

    To which Lorenzo Ruiz answered, "I will never do it. I am a Catholic and happy to die for God. If I have a thousand lives to offer, I will offer them to God."

    Existing documents attest that the Japanese promised him a safe trip back home where he could be reunited with his loved ones, but Ruiz staunchly chose to remain faithful to his religion.

    On September 22, 1637, Ruiz, Fray Domingo and their 14 companions were led up a hill overlooking the bay of Nagasaki. There they were hung upside down with their heads inside the well. Their temples were slit open to let blood drip slowly until they died either from loss of blood or asphyxiation. Many died after several days. Ruiz died last, on September 29,1637.

    "The Lord gives us saints at the right time and God waited 350 years to give us this saint," the Holy Father then said. "It is the heroism which he demonstrated as a lay witness to the faith... which is very important in today's world. The witness of San Lorenzo is the testimony we need of courage without measure to show us that it is possible. Faith and life for Lorenzo was synonymous and inseparable. Life without faith would have been without value...he proved that sanctity and heroism are there for anybody and the final victory is made to size for each one of us."


    PRAYER TO SAN LORENZO RUIZ de MANILA
    Beloved SAN LORENZO RUIZ DE MANILA, confronted with death, you proclaimed your readiness to die a thousand times for your Christian faith. Today the whole world admires your courage. We feel particularly proud of you as our brother. And we pray: You, a family man, protect our families. Keep them united in love. You, who bore your sufferings with patience and resignation, intercede for the sick of mind and body; help them to receive the grace of God’s miraculous healing. You, who died in a foreign country, take care of Filipinos living and working in this country and in other parts of the world. You, an example of Christian fortitude, sustain our faith and make it spread and grow strong all around us. You, the Philippines’ first saint, be the country’s special protector. Unite us as one people; help us to work in harmony for development and progress; and give us peace. AMEN.
    (State your intentions). San Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.


    PRAYER IN TIMES OF ADVERSITY
    Beloved SAN LORENZO RUIZ DE MANILA and Companion Martyrs: You, who experienced the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom for the proclamation of the Christian faith, inspire us with your strength and firmness of conviction to withstand the adversities of our lives and the difficulties of our existence. Teach us with your marvelous example and saintly wisdom to turn trials into blessings, by showing us the glory that comes from discovering the redemptive power of God's love. When times are full of grief, when moments are suffused with worry, let us feel your presence in our midst, so that we will be aware that you are by our side, strengthening us and interceding for us before Almighty God that we may have patience in our sufferings and consolation in our hardships. Help us realize that only in knowing our weakness can we be strong, only in undergoing sadness can we find real happiness, and only in passing through trials and distress can we find peace, encouragement and spiritual joy. AMEN. (State your intentions). San Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.


    PRAYER FOR THE SICK
    Beloved SAN LORENZO RUIZ DE MANILA and Martyr Companions, to you do we come for help.Help us to have the same faith and love that you had for God. We call upon you today on behalf of our ailing beloved ones. By your prayers and intercession obtain for them, not only comfort and peace for their souls, but also vigor, strength and health for their bodies.  We place our entire confidence in you because we know that God loves you and that you care for us. We earnestly pray that our sick ones be purified and revitalized in every cell, tissue, nerve and organ, so that the bodily limbs may function effectively again.  Through your powerful intercession help our sick to receive the grace of God's miraculous compassion, so that they will be completely whole again, and thereby be able to continue serving God faithfully in this life to the best of their strength and to attain the salvation to which you arrived.  AMEN.

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Holy Week in the Philippines

    Domingo de Ramos
    Domingo de Ramos or Palm Sunday, is one of the significant days of the Semana Santa wherein it marks the start of the Holy Week when Christians commemorate the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    At Mass on Palm Sunday, Catholics carry "palaspas" or palm leaves to be blessed by the priest. Many Filipinos bring home the palm leaves after the Mass and place these above their front door their windows, believing at doing so can ward off evil spirits. The real symbolism of the palaspas is that we welcome Christ to enter into the will of God. That is the meaning of the palm branches, not the superstitious part.
    While the celebration of Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards among other Catholic beliefs and traditions, the Filipino art of making decorative palaspas seems to have preceded this. Fray Juan De Plasencia noted in 1589 that when the early Filipinos wished to celebrate a festival, which they called pandot or worship, at the house of their chief, “in the center of the house they place one large lamp, adorned with leaves of the white palm, wrought into many designs.” The designs of the Philippine palaspas are similar to those found in Bali, Indonesia, suggesting the traditional handicraft dates back to the common ancestors of these neighboring countries.



    Pabasa
    Holy Monday marks the beginning of the Pabasa (literally, reading) or Pasyon, the marathon chanting of the story of Jesus' life, passion, and death, which continues day and night, for as long as two straight days.

    The Pabasa is one of the must do activities during Semana Santa or in Lent. This poetic rendition of the life, passion and resurrection of Christ is done by many Catholic communities around the country and can start as early as the first few days of Lent. In some places like in Lucban, it commences on Palm Sunday. Still, others do this on Maundy Thursday and marathon readings are done until noon of Friday, non-stop.

    The first Tagalog version of the Pasyon ni Kristo came out in 1704 by Gaspar Aquino de Belen. It proved to be so popular that a fifth edition was done. Around 1840, anonymous and illicit versions came out that became a headache with the Spanish clergy as these contained “heresies” but was later corrected. It should be noted that during the Spanish colonization, the Pabasa became so popular that these were even read during festivals, courtship and death, even outside that of the usual holy season that is Lent. One of the possible reasons put forward by scholars was that, the ancient Filipinos have local epics depicting the exploits of their heroes. It also tells of their deaths and eventual coming back to life. When the Spaniards introduced Christianity, these old epics were abolished but the introduction of the Pasyon became a replacement as it also tells the story of Christ’s life, his death and resurrection.



    Visita Iglesia
    Every Holy Thursday during Lent, it has been the tradition of the Filipino Catholic faithful to do the visita iglesia, literally, church visit. This practice, introduced by the Spanish colonizers, goes back to the time of the early church where Christians would visit the seven great basilicas in Rome for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during Maundy Thursday. These churches are: The Saint John Lateran, St. Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross in Jerusalem and St. Sebastian Outside the Walls. The last was replaced by Pope John Paul II with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love in 2000. The last Mass before Easter is also celebrated on Holy Thursday, usually including a reenactment of the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles; this Mass is followed by the procession of the Blessed Sacrament before it is taken to the Altar of Repose.
    For Filipinos, it’s not only the Blessed Sacrament but a contemplation of the fourteen stations of the cross. Traditionally, seven churches are visited with two stations per visit. While others, with more time and effort, visit fourteen.


    Good Friday

    Good Friday in the Philippines is commemorated with street processions, the Way of the Cross, the commemoration of Jesus' Seven last words (Siete Palabras) and a Passion play called the Sinakulo.
    In some communities (most famously in the province of Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance. After three o'clock in the afternoon of Good Friday (the time at which Jesus is traditionally believed to have died), noise is discouraged, bathing is proscribed and the faithful are urged to keep a solemn and prayerful disposition through Black Saturday.




    Sto. Sepulcro; Senior Sto. Entierro
    In the foothills of the Sierra Madre by the coast of Laguna de Bay, you can find the aptly named town of Paete, renowned for woodcarving and named after the paet (chisel).  Paete's most spectacular celebration takes place during Holy Week. It begins on Palm Sunday with the re-enactment of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalam. The short procession starts at the Ermita Chapel where the priest blesses the palaspas (palm branch) of the faithful. The participants then slowly move to the church as manangs (religious women) put their balabal (shawl) on the street for the priest to walk through. This custom is called payapak. A mass is held and afterwards the 16th-century statue of the Dead Body of Christ, or Señor Sepulkro to Paeteños, is brought home to its recamadero (owner and keeper of said image). The images are owned by individual families and are passed down to succeeding generations. For five days leading to Good Friday, the faithful kiss the exposed hands and feet of the Señor Sepulkro. On Holy Wednesday, a procession is held with Paete's 53 images of Christ's Passion and Ministry on display. The procession goes through the town's narrow streets en route to the church. It stops three times to give way to the Salubong (meeting) which depicts three scenes of Jesus' passion and in which Paete's "moving saints" take part. These are: the meeting of Christ and Mary, held at the church patio; the wiping of Jesus' face by Veronica, which takes place at Plaza Edesan; and finally, the encounter between Mary and Veronica where the latter shows the miraculous imprints of Christ's face on her cloth. This is held at the town plaza.





    Salubong
    Easter morning is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the dawn Salubong, wherein large statues of Jesus and Mary are brought in procession together to meet, imagining the first reunion of Jesus and his mother Mary after Jesus' Resurrection. This is followed by the joyous Easter Mass.
    The “Salubong” or “Encuentro” usually takes place before the first morning Easter Sunday Mass. The priest greets the people at the plaza or door of the church, while the images of the Risen Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, are born on procession from different points towards the church. The participants in the procession are segregated by gender. The men and boys follow the image of Jesus Christ, while women and girls follow the image of Mary. The procession ends with the two groups meeting in the church, where Mass is said. In some places more elaborate rites are held involving little children who act as angels.




    -----
    Above are the just some examples of the Filipino’s religiousity and rich religous and cultural traditions.
    The one gift for which the Filipinos are eternally grateful to Spain was the latter''s introduction to the Philippines of the Christian Religion. The first attempt to colonize and evangelize the Philippines happened with the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in 1521. But the effort was cut short by his death in the hands of the native warriors of Mactan, Cebu. It was only in 1565 and through the endeavors of the Spanish adelantado, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi that Christianization and colonization in the islands formally began. The first missionaries who launched a modest but daring attempt to convert the natives were the Augustinians who came with the Legazpi expedition. Much-needed assistance was supplied with the arrival of the Franciscans in 1578. The Jesuits followed suit in 1581. The Dominicans and Augustinian Recollects arrived in 1587 and 1606 respectively. The missionaries played a major role in the Filipino’s “encounter” with Christianity and the Christian God. This in a way became the ground of Filipino Spirituality. But it was not a one-sided process in which the Spanish missionaries shaped the Filipino spirituality. Much of the native pre-Christian cultural expressions survived in the process. Given the geographical, political (social fragmentation and political decentralization), demographical (personnel vis-á-vis the native population), and linguistic limitations within which the Spaniards had to operate in the colony, the Filipinos were provided a chance to choose from among the various religio-cultural elements being laid down by the Europeans. At the end of the process, the resultant spirituality is a syncretic blend of Hispanic imposition and the natives’ Filipinization of Christianity.