By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Practicing the Catholic faith in the Philippines involves fiestas (feast days) and traditional events such as a nine-day celebration leading up to the birth of Jesus on Christmas.
The Filipino community in the Archdiocese of Louisville has received Fr. Albert Añover, a new priest from the Philippines, with a warm ‘maligayang pagdating’ which means ‘happy arrival.’
They are hopeful that with the arrival of Father Añover, their community will be able to reconnect with some of those traditions.
Father Añover — a priest from the Archdiocese of Palo in the province of Leyte, Philippines — arrived in the Archdiocese of Louisville April 2 to minister to the Filipino community as associate pastor of St. Albert the Great Church, 1395 Girard Drive. Father Añover, who will celebrate the 13th anniversary of his ordination Sept. 20, has celebrated two Masses in Tagalog, the native Filipino language, since arriving, he said during an interview June 29.
Father Añover will continue to celebrate monthly Masses in Tagalog at St. Albert the Great. He will also be ministering to the English-speaking parishioners there, he said.
Father Añover said it’s good to connect with the Filipino people here.
Other than the mode of transportation — in the Philippines he often traveled by motorcycle on dirt roads — the biggest difference he anticipates is ministering to a community that’s spread out.
Before Father Añover’s arrival, Masses in Tagalog were celebrated every other month at St. Margaret Mary Church by Father Noel Zamora a former priest of the Diocese of Lex-
ington, Ky. Starting this month the Tagalog Masses will be celebrated at St. Albert the Great. Though Masses are held at a specific parish, Filipino Catholics are spread across the archdiocese. Yet, said Father Añover, their shared heritage and language keep them connected.
Father Añover said Filipino Catholics are known for the celebration of fiestas, which are feast days, such as the feast of St. Roque, the patron saint of the sick and handicapped celebrated in August and the feast of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers, celebrated in May.
These fiestas are “celebrated big, even in the smallest neighborhoods. People will invite neighbors and friends,” said Father Añover. He is encouraging the people here to “bring back a bit of that heritage. Even if it’s only a few people, we can celebrate.”
With that in mind, there are plans to celebrate the feast day of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the patron saint of the Philippines, at the Cathedral of the Assumption in September, said Father Añover.
One of the biggest celebrations in the Catholic church in the Philippines is the Simbang Gabi — a nine-day celebration leading up to Christmas. In the Philippines, Catholics attend Mass every day during the nine-day period and take part in celebrations that include special foods following Mass.
Filipinos in the archdiocese have kept part of that tradition by holding a one-day Simbang Gabi celebration in December. Father Albert said it’s a possibility that he may be able to help the community with a nine-day event in Louisville.
Aside from the celebrations, Father Añover said, he is busy getting members of the Filipino community trained to assist as lectors, cantors and altar servers for the monthly Masses in Tagalog. He will also be holding retreats.
Father Añover said he wants to be available to the people, whether it’s for baptisms, a conversation or a house or car blessing — the Filipino people are “fond of blessings,” he added.
M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry, said “it’s a blessing” to have Father Añover in the archdiocese. The people she has heard from are “excited,” she said during an interview last month.
Father Añover has been meeting with the archdiocesan Filipino council in order to learn of the needs in the community, noted Mandley-Turner.
The people have a need to “come together to affirm their culture and sense of community,” she said. They also have a need for “leadership development and spiritual retreats.” And young adults have expressed a desire for retreats and a ministry aimed towards their age group.
Father Albert “will be able to celebrate rituals and traditions from the church as they know them from the Philippines. They want to pass their stories on,” said Mandley-Turner. “It’ so much easier talking to someone from our country in our language. He’s able to mesh American and Filipino culture in a way that people can benefit from both.”
Dr. Carmel Tobias, a member of St. Margaret Mary Church, said it a “great honor” to have Father Añover here. She hopes, she said, that having a Filipino priest in the archdiocese will help the community maintain their culture and foster the traditions in the younger generation. Having the new priest here means “more opportunities to worship in Tagalog and more opportunities (for the youth) to learn the culture,” said Tobias. She is also looking forward to having his “spiritual support.”
Dr. Corazon Veza, a member of St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., said the “community is excited that he’s here.” Veza, who leads the archdiocesan Filipino council, said she has heard from are parents looking forward to having a priest minister to them and their family during difficult times. Veza said she looks forward to re-connecting with the traditions from her homeland.