Tomorrow, Chinese from all over the world will celebrate New Year in the traditional Chinese calendar. Here at the shrine, there are many Chinese-Filipinos who attend the novena. Did you know that there was a Chinese novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help at the shrine before? In this article, Fr. John Maguire traces the history of the Chinese novena at the shrine.
When I first came to the Philippines in 1963 there was a Chinese Novena every Wednesday at 9.a.m. This was attended by a few (around twenty) Chinese who used to gather in the Tribune of the Shrine (now the Sacristy). The Novena was conducted by a foreign priest, not Chinese, who would read the prayers up to the time of the sermon and then give a summary translation of the sermon being preached in the main Shrine, by the priest conducting the regular Novena. After the sermon they would part ways again, one continuing in English and the other in Chinese.
The priest who conducted the Novena in Chinese was a Jesuit from the group commonly called the “Chinese Mission”. They had been sent to China as Missionaries but when the boat was nearing China, the Communists had taken control and no more Missionaries were allowed into the country. They had come here to await developments but as we now know, no change ever came in their lifetime.
Many Chinese missionaries worked in the Philippines for years and some died here. Examples were Fr Parisi, S.J. who was well known for his counseling center called “Our Lady of Peace” and who died here a number of years ago, Fr Calle, who taught Catechists and is now in Hong Kong or Macao, and a Fr Mario who heard confession in Baclaran every Wednesday for more than twenty years until his death. He is buried in the Jesuit Novitiate (Retreat House) in Novaliches.
When the new Revised Novena began in 1973, the year of the Silver Jubilee of the Novena, Fr Santiago de Leon S.J, who at that time led the Chinese Novena at 9.a.m. each Wednesday, said that they still had copies of the first Chinese Novena Booklet that was printed in 1966. Before that they had mimeographed copies dating back to 1960. At that time about twenty Chinese were still gathering in the tribune of the Shrine each Wednesday. They had the Revised Novena translated and printed in Chinese in Taipei.
The Chinese Novena continued for a number of years after this but eventually it was impossible to get a priest on a regular basis, and the need for such a service seemed to have disappeared, so the Tribune became a Sacristy.
A large number of Chinese still attend the different sessions of the novena.
John Maguire, CSsR