Fr. Nilo Macapinlac (left) and other devotees of the Black Nazarene statue currently at Sacred Heart parish in Wetaskiwin.


Fr. Nilo Macapinlac (left) and other devotees of the Black Nazarene statue currently at Sacred Heart parish in Wetaskiwin.

March 21, 2016

Eddie Año's eyes brim with tears as he recounts taking part in the annual procession of Señor Nazareno in the heart of Manila.

One of more than 9.3 million Filipino devotees to the statue also known as the Black Nazarene, he recalls how attendees would march barefoot, pants rolled up, clambering over each other to help carry the statue along the streets of the Quiapo district.

Considered a gold mine of spiritual treasures, the Black Nazarene statue of Jesus filled Año's heart with joy when it recently arrived in Wetaskiwin.

Until the end of March, Sacred Heart Parish will host the replica of the miraculous statue renowned by many Filipino Catholics.

Many parishioners stay behind after Mass to venerate the statue but it is a far cry from the devotion to the Black Nazarene Año experienced in the Philippines.

In his hometown, veneration of the ebony-complexioned statue, depicting Jesus bearing the cross en route to his crucifixion, has been enshrined for over 400 years.

"The respect is there but the devotion is less because geographically, we can't do what we do in the Philippines because it's always warm there. You can't walk barefooted on top of the snow," said Año.

"The people attending the procession have to be barefooted because they consider the pathway to be holy."

While the carriage holding the statue could easily be carried by a dozen people, hundreds of devotees in the midst of millions at the procession will squeeze to have a chance to carry the statue attached to a rope on each side. They want to feel the hardship, to lessen the burden Jesus carried on his way to Golgotha in the act of both humility and penance, said Año.

"Myself, I want to share because of my sin; I want to lessen his burden by taking some of the hardship too during the procession," he said.

Año performs penance before the Black Nazarene. "I pray, and he knows what's going on," he said.

Parishioner Lise Simard was unaware of the Black Nazarene until she was taught about the statue by Wetaskiwin's pastor, Father Nilo Macapinlac. She was comforted as she participated in the first of two nine-day novenas to the Black Nazarene incorporated into daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church Feb. 16-24 and March 8-16.


Sharon Audet also knew nothing about the devotion when the Black Nazarene arrived. She said the statue has deepened her faith.

"I went up, genuflected, and talked to him like I do to Jesus. He is Jesus."

Parishioner Suzanne Rabel said the statue, because it shows the Lord in his passion and suffering, instantly resonated with her as the parish's pro-life representative.

"It's a wonderful icon because it shows our Lord in his passion and suffering and that's exactly what the whole Catholic Church is experiencing right now because of the legalization of assisted suicide, euthanasia and abortion," she said.

"The whole community is suffering because of that. We see that icon of our Lord, and it really indicates to us the incredible suffering he suffered."

Macapinlac said the Black Nazarene resonates with the Filipino people because they are bombarded by poverty and disastrous storms every year. "When we see Jesus carrying the cross, it resonates to what we feel."


Here, in a prosperous country, people are often in a cycle of work and more work, sometimes forgetting even to go to church, he said.

"Sometimes we savour the sweetness of milk and honey, but we forget where this milk and honey is coming from."

Macapinlac said devotion to the Black Nazarene can lead to a deeper insight into what Jesus meant when he said, "Take up your cross daily and follow me."

Eucharistic minister Bryan Donegan said the statue is constructed to encourage devotion. "You look at it and ask yourself, 'Why is it black? And why is it carrying the cross?'"

Corazon Costales, a devotee from the Philippines who coordinates children's liturgy at Sacred Heart, said the children also ask why the statue is black.

"I keep on telling the kids that it is really Jesus' statue, and he is still a good Jesus who listens to us no matter what the colour is, and they are just amazed," she said.


The most widely held belief is that the dark colour of the original statue is due to its being charred by a fire on board the galleon that brought it to Manila from Mexico in the early 1600s.

It is considered miraculous because it is said to have survived blazing fires, two earthquakes and floods.

Pope Pius VII gave the statue an apostolic blessing in the 19th century, granting plenary indulgences to those who piously pray before it.

Parishioner Dina Katheder was overjoyed when the replica was brought to Wetaskiwin. She had a devotion to the Black Nazarene when she was growing up in the Philippines.

In Edmonton, members of the Knights of Columbus Nazareno Council have reported supernatural happenings as a result of their devotion to Jesus the Black Nazarene. The council, based at St. John the Evangelist Church, purchased the replica of the Black Nazarene and brought it to the archdiocese.