In the lead-up to Christmas, an unfamiliar language was being heard in churches across Southland.
in November, the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin had begun to conduct
monthly Filipino-language masses around Otago and Southland.
Filipino language, otherwise known as Tagalog, is one of the two
official languages of the Philippines (along with English) and is spoken
by a majority of the population either as a first or second language.
decision to hold the Tagalog masses was the idea of Reverend Fredy
Permentilla, himself a Filipino priest working in the Catholic parish in
The new initiative was a response to the growing Filipino community within Southland, Permentilla said.
has been responsible for running the masses all across the region,
including in Winton, Invercargill, Dunedin, and Queenstown.
Permentilla said that for many Filipinos "there is a longing to hear the mass in their own language".
"It's good to hear it in your own vernacular - and people feel it more because they miss home."
For Invercargill parishioner Julius Janerol, having a Filipino mass is an important event for the whole community.
"For us Filipinos, most are in Catholic communities, so we are very
grateful to be able to listen in our own language during mass."
around Christmas time it is easy to attend, for many Filipinos working
on dairy farms it can sometimes be difficult to commit.
"During calving season we cannot attend as much - for some maybe only once a month."
Permentilla arrived in New Zealand back in 2012, as part of an initiative of the Mission Society of the Philippines.
The society has been active in Southland since 2009, with Permentilla being the third priest assigned to the role.
well as holding masses and other events, much of Permentilla's role is
involved with looking after the Filipino community across Otago and
"In this part of the world, people often can feel isolated. As a priest, visiting families is your ministry - it's the job of a priest to listen."