by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — The image of
Senyor Santo Nino (Holy Child Jesus) has finally found a home at St Benedict’s Church in Newton.
St Benedict’s parish priest, Msgr Paul Farmer told the Filipino devotees they were welcome to visit any time they wanted to.

From left to right: Oscar Batucan, Msgr Paul Farmer, Miriam Batucan and Fr Michael Larry Rustia at the installation of the image of Senyor Santo Nino (Holy Child Jesus) at St Benedict’s Church in Newton.

“This devotion that you have to the Child Jesus is very important to you as part of your heritage. I want you to know that you are very welcome to come here often and frequently for prayer and to deepen you devotion,” he said.
The image was brought to New Zealand 20 years ago by Oscar Batucan. He and his wife, Miriam,
were members of the New Zealand Filipino Senyor Sto Nino Devotees.
The image was displayed in about four churches before it finally had a permanent chapel.
“We were lucky enough to find a community that is already devoted to Santo Nino,” said Mr Batucan.
He said at St Benedict’s there are Spanish, Latin-American and Indian Catholic communities who, like Filipinos, are already praying to the Sto Nino.
Fr Michael Larry Rustia also thanked Msgr Farmer for giving Filipinos a special place to venerate the image. “The place is very appropriate because as soon as you enter the church he is there to welcome everyone,” he said.
The installation Mass started with a young child carrying a much smaller Santo Nino statue, followed by a group of dancers in Filipino traditional dresses who danced
Sinulog. Sinulog is a folk dance that commemorates Filipinos’ pagan origins and conversion to
Christianity.
The Santo Nino is a central figure in the establishment of Christianity in the Philippines.
The image and a large wooden cross were brought to the Philippines by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The cross was installed in Cebu and the image given as a baptismal gift to local chieftain Rajah Humabon’s wife, Amihan.
Mr Batucan said there are about 16,000 Filipino devotees in Auckland.
The group has 14 community coordinators in Auckland and one each in Palmerston North and Invercargill.
“Our goal is to have a chapel for Santo Nino in all of the dioceses in New Zealand,” he said.
He said that already Sto Nino has been visited by many people. “I see people of different ethnicities going over to the chapel to pray to him,” he said.
Mr Batucan said novenas to the Santo Nino are powerful and petitions are often granted.
“This has been manifested in so many ways in our lives,” he said. “I believe Santo Nino brought my family here so we can promote the devotion to him.”

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