Visit to JinZhongDiocese
Despite widespread heavy pollution in China, there are occasional blue skies!! As in Yangquenbei, Shanxi Province, a former coal mining city where I spent a week teaching at the diocesan centre.
Further blue skies in Yangquenbei, Shanxi province
Shanxi buns, a local delicacy of that province, in the preparation.
Buns in preparation - a local delicacy of Shanxi province.
40 priests and sisters participated in the five day seminar which I gave at Yangquenbei on the Initial and Original Message of Jesus. Their diocese is Jinzhong, where the old bishop died about two years ago. In earlier years he suffered imprisonment for about 20 years and solitary confinement for about ten years, where he had nothing to do except pray and make shoes!; an experience that prepared the way for him to be open up to and support the foundation of an Augustinian Contemplative monastery in his diocese - the first such opening in China since 1949.
A marvellous community park in the city of Yangquenbei which has a very large representations of the Life of Jesus: put in place by the city governmnet - supposedly communist and atheist!
With the altar servers in the parish church at a 6.00 pm Mass
Clinical Pastoral Training (CPE) in Tianjin City
A dinner and concert celebrating CPE graduation .
10 graduates after a 10 week training course display their certificates. Many of them are returning to ministry with the poor, the elderly and orphans.
Part of the CPE training, visiting hospital patients, was carried out in the local government hospital.
The director (second from left above) welcomed the catholic students, facilitating them in every way, and wishes that they will return again during future CPE training to offer spiritual care services to the patients.
The Catholic Diocese of Tianjin has just completed its own 700 bed hospital to serve local needs.
Yuen Cheng Diocese opened a new Nursing Home for the aged.
This is the new nursing home, with rented space on the ground floor to support poorer residents.
Bishop Wu, ( second from right) bishop of the diocese of YuenCheng, with Sr Li, a medical doctor, before becoming a sister and now director of the Nursing Home, and Fr Ma the local parish priest.
Fr Ma, parish priest of Yuencheng, with Sr Li director of the Nursing Home for the aged, and parishioners, showing us the 400 year old Catholic graveyard in which a jesuit priest, who was highly honoured by the Emperor of the time, was buried. The recent escavation revealed that the tomb and body is preserved. The graveyard was taken over and bulldosed by the government in the '50s but now has been returned to the Church. The bishop wishes to restore it to its Qing dynasty period style, as a marker to the significance of the Cathoic mission that emanated from this area to other parts of China.
The 100 year old parish church, now in full use was closed and used as a grain store room during the 50's and 60's.
Lunch in a new village with the parents of the sister director of the local catholic hospital, and the two priests of the parish.
This new village in the area, recently constructed, replaced an old coal mining village, with the Catholic Church in a prime space.
A home in the village with all the catholic images and the latest TV.
Hu Yan Bo
Anthony Hu Yanbo, one of our graduates from Heythrop College, University of London, graduated in scripture and biblical langauges; he is currently tanslating the Old Testament into Mandarin. He also did a significant amount of the translation of the book in the next picture.
Jesus - an Historical Apprpximation is authored by a Spanish Scripture scholar and is the best book on this topic that I have read; we had it it translated into Mandarin and Hu Yanbo (above picture) did a substantial part of the translation. 3000 copies of this book was distributed throughout China, with 12 dioceseses ordering copies for all their priests, sisters and lay workers; a new edition of 5000 copies is currently being printed. This book helps us to undertand what Pope Paul VI once said: 'Jesus was the first and greatest evangeliser'!
Beijing South Cathedral: Corpus Christi Procession: June 18th
People waiting for the Blessed Sacrament procession to come from the Church.
The Blessed Sacrament procession.
The Blessed Sacrament processession went through the street and re-entered the Church grounds.
The Blessed Sacrament procession returns to the Cathedral.
People waiting for the mass to end before they can enter the cathedral - the majority age range would be between 20 and 40 years
Fr Simone, from Shanxi province, chose to be incardinated into a central diocese of China, poorer than his diocese of origin, visiting St Kevin's Glendalough, Ireland during his English language Study period, afer completing a masters in bibical studies in Rome. He will continue to a doctorate in Rome in September '17.
The parents of Fr Simone, whom I visited, and his youngest brother, also a minor seminarian.
Fr Simone's extended family with his grandmother and nieces
A picture from the Opening ceremony of the Monastery, St Augustine Gardens, in 2015.
The monastery entrance with Dan Troy, ssc, Professor John Feehan, Elizabeth McArdle, Sr Mary Niu, foundress of the monastery and EOB.
The Contemplative Monastery, was the venue for a seminar on Laudato si', the Encyclical on the Environment by Pope Francis. Professor John Feehan, University College Dublin, led a seminar on Creation spirituality. The monastery, as well as respecting its Augustinian heritage, will become a centre for awareness of creation spirituality, situated as it is in a marvellous mountain, valley and river area, and now with 7 million years of geological history, which we discovered during the seminar.
Professor Feehan asked us to reflect on the "Theological Challenge of Geological Time"
Some pictures used by Professor Feehan and quotations from Laudato si' and others follow.
Each of the various creatutres, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness.
Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature to avoid any disordered use of things.
(Laudato si' 69)
Even the fleetest lives of the least beings is the object of his love and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. (Laudato si' 77 )
Together with our obligation to use the earth's goods responsibly, we are called to recognise that other living beings have a value of their own in God's eye: by their mere existence they give him glory" (Catechism of thr Catholid Church 2416 (Laudato si' 69)
About 30 people were selected to attend the seminar who would have the capacity and possibility of multipying this seminar in their own work places.
Course participants examined the local geological formations and learned both to look and 'really' see.
The creatures of the earth were not created in the first instance for us to dispose at will, regardless of their place in God's plan, they are primarily for the fulfillment of God's unforlding plan for creation. ( Laudiatio si' 53.)
Geological time !
God cannot express himself fully in any one creature, and so he has produced many and varied diverse life form, so that what one lacks in its expression of divine goodness may be compensated for by others: for goodness, which in God is single and undifferentiated, in creatures is refracted into a myriad hues of being. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1,a47.1.)
The geological surroundings of the monastery were researched by Chinese and foreign paleontoligists. This area holds significance within China and even on a world scale.
Fr Teilhard de Chardin, sj, who spent most his life in China, was one of the team of scientists who researched the area. He was silenced by the Vatican for many years, but eventually his truth prevailed and his book The Phenomenon of Man and The Divine Mieleu are classics in their field.
The Creation seminar wasn't all hard work - here a special dinner with a lamb cooked Mongolian style.
The extended family of Sr Mary Niu, monastery foundress, with her parents, (front row ), brothers and sisters and their children.
Liu GinGuang, and his wife and daughter. He is director of Communications, State Adminstration for Religious Affairs, who studied in Manchester University and has completed a Phd in Vatican China Relations at Renmin Univesity, Beijing - an opportunity for exhange on the religious affairs situation of the country.
Reunion of our graduates.
Graduates of our overseas academic training for Chinese priests, sisters and laity, who have studied in Ireland, UK, USA and Australia, gathered at the above shrine city in Shandong province to review their re-entry into China and to share on the challenges of evangelisation in China.
Sometime for prayer at the grotto on the mountain during the graduates reunion.
Petra and Richard, two new Catholic Christians, at the Church of the National Catholic Seminary, Beijing. Petra, who went on a discernment pilgrimage in India, before becoming a Catholic has a wiry sense of humour and good sense of the modern theology of salvation by other religions when she said "I did not finalise my decison to be a Catholic till I felt asssured that Confucius would also be in heavan with me!"
If you understand mandarin, the next two videos give a short statement by each on why they choose to be a Catholic.
Kevin, (3rd from left) also newly baptised, with Catholic friends also new catholics, who facilitated his journey to decide to be baptised. The final clinch to his thinking on becoming a catholic was when he saw a video of an Australian man without hands or feet, spending his life travelling the country and encouraging young people to be brave and serve others.
Some 20,000 people reportedly became Catholics in China this year but some dioceses were still compiling their figures. Hebei province tops China's baptism rankings.
Churches on Hilltops!
Western Media, boith secular and catholic, makes much news of the removal of some Crosses and some restriction on Churches in China. The following pictures, and there are many other examples, give another side to the story! See also the representations of Christ in the public park in Yangquenbei, pictures 4/5/6/ above.
A basilica, on the top of the mountain where we had our reunion.
A pilgrimage route to the above basilica and grotto.
In Dunerguo, a pilgrimage site for thousands each year with the ten commandments on display in a public place at the entrance to the mountain pilgrimage.
Moses presents the ten commandments at the entry to this pilgrimage route.
A small basilica at the top of the mountain where the pilgrims in Dunerguo end their journey.
The above is one person's limited perspective on China and the Catholic Church there. What John tells us at the end of his Gospel is true of China - "that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written".