Friday, February 16, 2007

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy New Year!

China’s most popular traditional holiday, Chinese New Year is a time for feasting, family reunions, and fun! Every year, Asians throughout the world spend weeks preparing for the 15-day celebration, officially called the Spring Festival. People often wonder why the date for Chinese New Year changes each year. Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (all months begin with a new moon). It occurs somewhere between January 30 and February 20. Each Chinese year is represented by a repeated cycle of 12 animals. In 2007, Chinese New Year falls on February 18th. It is year 4705, the year of the Boar or Pig according to the ancient Chinese calendar.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors.

The life of a Claretian Missionary in China

After almost 6 months in China, one of our missionaries in Beijing, shares what he has been doing there…

Since August 28 until now, I have felt God’s abiding presence in our life and ministry in Beijing.

Putonghua Study. I began learning Putonghua(Mandarin - Chinese Language) in September full of enthusiasm. Though I had never studied Putonghua before, I found it quite familiar, specially writing Chinese characters. And soon, I was among the best in the class…

English Classes at the National Catholic Seminary. I began teaching English to the seminarians and priests at National Seminary on November 4, 2006. I go to the seminary on Friday afternoon and stay there until Sunday lunch, after which I either go home or to the South Church to meet the catechumens I introduced there. A room is reserved for me in the seminary, where I keep my books, and the seminary fathers, though many of them do not know English, have warmly accepted me as one of them.

Online Course at St. Michael’s College USA: Computer-Assister Language Learning. I did not expect that an online course would be more demanding than the traditional face-to-face course in a classroom. It is a new learning experience for me, which is quite interesting and taxing at the same time. I have to do a lot of reading, surfing the net, evaluation and assessment, and a number of tasks and projects.

Sunday Household English Discussion Group. I volunteered to teach English every Monday evening at the South Church where the parish offers English courses on weeknights from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. I had about 20 professional men and women, and one elementary pupil in my class, most of who were non-believers.

Additional English Classes at the Capital Railway Health School to nursing students. One of the women mentioned above teaches Pharmacology at a nursing school. She asked me if I wanted to teach her nursing students, so she arranged for a meeting between the vice-director of her school and me. The vice-director offered me 2 classes of 2 periods each every Tuesday and Thursday for a total of 8 periods a week. I also begin teaching there mid-March.

A Week in Shandong

At the end of January Sid went on a trip to Shandong:

Shandong Province is situated in the eastern part of China. It overlooks the Korean Peninsula and the Japan Archipelago across a vast stretch of sea. The province has a total area of 156,000 square kilometers (about 60,235 square miles) and a total population of over 90 million. Shandong, with a history of more than 5,000 years, is considered one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization.

Shandong's provincial capital is one of China's most famous historical and cultural cities. It has numerous natural springs, hence its name 'Spring City'.
Jinan, Shandong's provincial capital is one of China's most famous historical and cultural cities. It has numerous natural springs, hence its name 'Spring City'.

On January 30 (Tuesday), I went to visit Francis and his family in a village some four hours by bus from Jinan, the capital city of Shandong. Francis is one of my students of English at the National Seminary; I stayed with him for four days where I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of his family. There is a 100-year-old church in his village, with more than 300 Catholics. The priest, who lives in another town, goes there twice a week to celebrate Mass, in time also for the market day. Houses also do not usually have a bathroom; people go to a nearby factory to take a bath for RMB 1 per person (US$0.12).

From there, I went to Qingzhou (which took 7 hours by bus), where I stayed in the bishop’s house until February 7. The Diocese of Qingzhou has a 96-year-old bishop, 8 priests (2 are sick and 6 actively working in the ministry), 5 seminarians, 9 sisters, and about 10,000 Catholics. Most of the priests and sisters come from one town, which has more Catholics than the city of Qingzhou. The cathedral is in a district where there are more Muslims than Christians, so only a few come to church for the Mass.

During my stay there, I facilitated a seminar on Bible for the sisters and the seminarians, who came for their spring holiday. For the Mass, everyone has a copy of the Chinese Pastoral Bible, from where they read the readings orally before the Mass. Priests, seminarians, sisters and church personnel also celebrate morning and prayer together. The church and the residence are very clean, and one feels at atmosphere of true community and happiness there.

People live a simple life in China, and most of them are poor, but they are rich in their hospitality and concern for others. The Church is only a minority in China, but there is a strong sense of community and belongingness among the believers. And there are still vocations to the priesthood or to the religious life though this situation may change after some time, especially with the implementation of the “one family, one child” policy of the government. But I have also met a number of seminarians, who are their parents’ only son, if not their only child.

China: The City and the Rural Areas - the gap is HUGE!

But whether in the city, with its booming economy and well-lit evenings, or in the village, with the people’s very simple life and cold nights without heating, the Chinese Catholics form a community, where fellow believers feel a sense of belongingness as sisters and brothers.

China – Vatican News

We followed with enthusiasm the news about an important meeting at the Vatican about the presence of the Church in China. Following the two-day review of its China policy last January, the Holy See said it wished to "overcome misunderstandings of the past" with Beijing, which ended relations with the Vatican more than 50 years ago.

From the news:

China welcomes Vatican olive branch
(Click this to Link to BBC News)

BEIJING, China (AP) -- China's state-backed Catholic church Monday welcomed a newly announced Vatican initiative to repair ruptured relations with Beijing and said a promised letter from the pope to Chinese Catholics could be helpful.

Three times as many believers in China
(Click this to Link to Epoch Times)

AsiaNews reported that an official Chinese government-sponsored survey shows that the number of religious believers is three times that previously estimated by the government.The first substantial survey on faith conducted by two university professors and published on government media shows that Christianity is the religion that has grown the most over time.Three hundred million Chinese people now believe in a religion, according to the survey which also revealed that 31.4% of those aged 16 and above considered themselves to adhere to some religion. The data was based on research conducted on a sample of 4,500 people
Those working on the report said the religion that has seen the biggest growth is Christianity: 12% of believers, or 40 million people, declared that they were followers of Christ. In 2005, Beijing said there were 16 million Christians while there were around 10 million in the late 1990s, always according to government statistics.The average age of believers has dropped: around two-thirds of those interviewed were aged between 16 and 35 while only 9.6% were 55 years or more.

China's Guangzhou goes Gothic again
(Click this Link to Catholic News)

The historic gothic Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Chinese southern city of Guangzhou reopened after two years of renovation as authorities release official figures showing that China's population of religious believers has reached 300 million, including 40 million Christians.The Cathedral is inspired by Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral and which is the only granite Gothic church in mainland China. Fr Joseph Gan Junqiu, has recently been approved by the Holy See and the Chinese government as bishop-elect of the Guangzhou diocese.

The Pastoral Bible in Vietnamese

The Pastoral Bible Foundation (PBF) has been helping for several years in the translation of the Pastoral Bible in Vietnamese. This version has now been published. It incorporates the latest Vietnamese translation of the Bible and all the pastoral commentaries of our edition.


An old friend, Fr. José Marins, repeated often “may the apostles be friends”. In this shared mission for China we have met old and new friends and together we are creating a network that multiplies our apostolic endeavors.

Fr. John Zhang. He is one of the most prestigious and influential priest in China. He is the director of Faith Press, the largest Catholic publishing house in China, and publishes three times a month a newspaper with more than 50,000 subscribers. This newspaper reaches all the parishes in China, and many places abroad. He also started Jinde Charities ( with a variety of social services. He is particularly interested in the spiritual formation of pastoral agents. Because of these he is well recognized in China and abroad.

Our relationship with Faith Press goes back several years ago when we offered them the translation and publication rights of our books into Chinese. We discussed the possibility of teaming up for new pastoral projects.

Fr. Dennis Rochford, msc. He comes to the Catholic University of Macau (IIUM) as Dean of Theological studies in preparation for the theological courses that IIUM wants to start this coming October, offering a systematic training for seminarians from China. Religious congregations are also expected to send their seminarians for a six year training. Since the very beginning of our arrival in Macau the Claretians have maintained a close contact with the university and plan to work together in this project.

Fr. Paul Chan Tsun Wai, SJ. This Jesuit priest specializes in spiritual formation mainly for priests and sisters in China. He has a full schedule of retreats the whole year long. He is also connected with several catechetical centers in China and after knowing our work and the books that we have published –some of them already in Chinese– he is very interested in teaming up with us.

Carol and Colin Tan.
Colin is a retired lawyer who taught at the diplomatic school in Beijing and now counts with several Chinese friends who are ambassadors in several countries. Carol, his wife, has worked for many years at Stanford University in USA. They live part of the year in Zhuhai, our neighbor city from Macau and they come for Sunday Mass. Once I mentioned that we were looking for a young Chinese web designer and a couple of days later I received an email telling me that some friends were visiting them and their son Zhao Yuan Yi. She writes: “Zhao Yuan Yi, is going to graduate from Guang Zhou Agriculture University in June this year. His major is Web Designer. He is an outstanding student with honor at the University. His designed Logos have won several awards. The last one was received from Taiwan University in 2006.” Sid and myself went across the border to meet them. Here they are:

We have already given some assignment to Zhao Yuan Yi and hopefully he will begin working with us after his graduation this June.