Welcome to Our Santo Niño Shrine
Thank you for visiting our Santo Niño Shrine
at St. Paul Catholic Church
We are glad you are here!
“Our parish is blessed to host the only freestanding shrine to Santo Niño in North America. It is a beautiful sanctuary which is open 24/7 for prayerful reflection . . . the Santo Niño devotion originates with the shepherds and the Magi on that first Christmas eve. It is a devotion to the Incarnation of the God – The World made Flesh – Jesus Christ!
Devotion to the Holy Child was fostered by St. Francis of Assisi. In Rome, an image of the Child Jesus was carved and devotion to Santo Bambino of Aracoeli began. People gathered to pray for God and felt that the prayers were answered in a singular way. The devotion to Santo Niño soon spread to Spain. The famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan brought Santo Niño to Cebu, Phillipines in 1521 where it was warmly received by the queen.” This interesting story was told by Edgar Allan Poe in his book, the Narrative of Arthur Gordan Pyme of Nantucket. Discovery of the 7100 island archipelago in the Philippines has been linked to Spain's glorious chain of conquests.
On September 20, 1519, a fleet of five galleons commanded by Portuguese Navigator Ferdinand Magellan at the service of the king and queen of Spain set sailed from San Lucar de Barrameda to search for the Spice Islands. They did not find the Spice Island, instead they landed in Limasawa, a small island south of Leyte in the central part of the Philippines. Magellan took possession of the islands and named it after King Philip of Spain. Magellan's expedition headed for Cebu and found the island very hospitable. He made Cebu the base of his exploration, Christianization and conquests.
King Humabon (King TooWit) and Queen Juana of Cebu gave him a warm reception and embraced Christianity as well. A statuette of the Holy Child, Santo Niño inspired by St. Francis of Assisi was presented to the Queen. As gratitude to his hospitality, Magellan agreed to fight with King Humabon who was at war with the neighboring tribe in Mactan island. Magellan was killed in the battle. Some of his men returned to Spain, while one boat out of the original five started the expedition managed to circumnavigate the earth. Spain sent another expedition to the Far East Region. An Augustinian priest, named Andres Urdaneta, a world-known cosmographer who lived inside the monastic walls of the Augustinian monastery in Mexico was summoned to lead the expedition. On November 21, a memorable expedition left Mexico for the Philippines and arrived in Cebu on April 27, 1565.
Because of Cebuanos suspicion that the Spaniards return was bringing retribution to Magellan's death, another battle broke out. But heavy artilleries and huge cannons forced the natives to flee to the mountain leaving behind their villages burnt to the ground. As Spanish soldiers surveyed the debris of the village, a soldier, a member of the Miguel Lopez De Lagaspi Expedition, found an image of the Child Jesus under the pile of ashes unscathed inside a wooden box, which was felt to be divine intervention.
As earlier authenticated entry in the Journal of Pigafetta, clerk in the Magellan expedition, explained the origin of Santo Niño: "On the day Queen Juana was baptized by Father Pedro Valderama, chaplain of that expedition, Pigaffeta himself presented her with the Image." The same Image now lies in the Basilica del Santo Niño and has become a favorite destination for millions of pilgrims each year. For four and half centuries now, the Image of Santo Niño continues to make wonders in the lives of many Filipinos. On the third Sunday of each year, in Cebu, millions will flock to the streets in Cebu for a colorful festivity, honoring the Santo Niño and placing the Island and the entire Philippines under His Patronage.
During the last World War, a bomb fell inside the Church but the Image was recovered unscathed. It was one of the numerous miracles and powers attributed to the Holy Image. During the centennial celebration, the Sacred Congregation of Rites elevated the Santo Niño Church to the rank of Basilica Minore with all the rights and privileges accruing to such title.
The image of the Devotion to the Holy Child was also brought to Prague and Mexico where it is warmly venerated as the Infant of Prague and Divino Niño or Santo Niño de Atocha.
In 1988, a small group of Filipino Catholics in the Tampa Bay area began perpetual novenas to the Santo Niño every Friday. In 1990, St. Paul Parish through Pastor Fr. Austin Mullen , welcomed the Santo Niño Devotion to hold its annual Santo Niño Fiesta every third Sunday in January.
In 2010, Bishop Robert Lynch dedicated the Santo Niño De Cebu Shrine and Prayer Space at St. Paul. The statue in the shrine is a replica of the original given to the King of Cebu in 1521. In 2011, a time capsule was interred inside the Santo Niño Statue pedestal. The capsule will be opened on June 24, 2061. The Shrine is the embodiment of the singular will of the Santo Niño devotees to spread their devotion within the nurturing stewardship and generosity of Bishop Robert Lynch and Fr. Leonard Piotrowski.
“Our preparations for the Feast of Santo Niño have been Spirit-filled! Every night we have been gathering for a novena of prayer at 7 pm. Afterwards there is a special Mass presided by priests from our diocese. After the Mass, we adjourn to the family Center for an authentic Filipino food.
On Saturday, the last eveining for our Novena, the special 7:30 pm Mass in the horror of Santo Niño is followed by a beautiful candlelight rosary procession around our peace path and campus. It is an amazing experience as we process in a river of light and prayer with the images of Our Lady of Aparecida from our Brazilian community, Our Lady of Peñafrancia from our Filipino community, Our Lady of Fatima which represents those of European heritage, and our beloved Santo Niño. Again, the evening is topped with a sumptuous banquet. It is an evening of incredible blessing.
On the third Sunday in January, the Festival Mass takes place at 4:30 pm. The Sacred Liturgy begins with an incredibly moving pageant which enacts the arrival of Santo Niño to the Philippines in 1521 and its welcome by the Queen . . . A special festival choir including a bamboo orchestra will lead us in song. After the Mass, there is a short procession the Family Center. After a traditional dinner, and then the sinulog will take place. The sinulog is a traditional native dance which developed over the centuries in honor of Santo Niño. It is a prayer in movement. After several dance troops take the floor, we are all invited to participate in this incredibly moving experience . . .
Our Santo Niño Shrine is blessed by the Sacred Trinity – it is a place to rest; contemplate; learn; meditate; ask for help and forgiveness; and discover the deeper meaning of Santo Niño. The Holy Child, Jesus, is a symbol of strength for Filipinos and all Latinos, but it stands for more Sacred measures in the church and world. The shepherd and Magii came out of recognition of not only a great Event and Ruler new to the world despite their confusion. The shrine also recognizes our enormous strength in Faith in Mary and Joseph and our Faith in Him as well. In the United States that is becoming more isolationistic, it teaches us to incorporate all ethnicities, authentic rituals into our daily life and into our religious mission. Within the Feast there are the universal symbols: Light, Music, Adoration, an “Aery” Uplifting Laughter, Fun, Movement, Dance, Food and Drink, that we see in all religions and spiritual beliefs and we point toward the heavens.
We invite you to browse the below pages to learn more about the statues and landmarks within the Shrine.
The Papal Visit to the Philippines
On January 16, 2015, Pope Francis during his homily given at Rizzal Park in Manilla at the celebration of the anniversary of the Holy Child, Santo Nino, preached:
“Finding myself in this important city known as the cradle profound thanksgiving to the Lord of history. The thought that for 450 years the light of the Gospel has shown with undimmed brightness in this land and on its people is cause for great rejoicing. Four and a half centuries of fruitful interaction between the local culture and Christian message have resulted in this harmonious blending called "Filipino Christian culture." God's providence in the Philippines has truly been wonderful.
The Christianization that took place in the sixteenth century was not something merely accidental. Divine grace was at work when the people of this region had their first contact with the image of the Santo Nino. It is an important historical fact, rich in religious meaning, that on January 1, 1571 the village kingdom of Sugbu was renamed "Villa del Santo Nino," and thus the first city of the Philippines was placed under the patronage of the Child Jesus. In a particular way the church thank God that the tiny Christian community of Sugbo, under the patronage of the Infant Jesus, has now become a flourishing archdiocese of two million people, almost all of whom are Catholics. It can truly be said that growth in faith and Christian living has been until now a constant feature of the church in Cebu as well as the whole Philippines. The glorious past gives hope for the future" Read more.