Friday, May 12, 2023

Our Lady of China


May 13
Today this year the Church in Hong Kong and China celebrates the moveable Memorial of Our Lady of China, while in Taiwan it is celebrated with the rank of Feast. Since 1973, it has been celebrated annually on the day before Mothers' Day (the second Sunday in May), and takes the triple significance of Saturday (Mary's day), May (Mary's month) and the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year, Mothers' Day also happily coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Macau celebrates the Feast on Chinese New Year Day, using the red liturgical colour.

The Confucian tradition allows the Chinese faithful to readily accept the importance of devotion to the Blessed Mother, as filial piety is primary to the cultivation of virtue in the Chinese culture. The love for the Blessed Virgin is present in all nations through different artistic forms, and the Chinese people have one of their own that is particularly important, but unfortunately, little known. The importance is due to apparitions of the Virgin Mary and a famous painting in Donglu.

Parish Church of Donglu

Church of Donglu in 1904

Situated about 20 km southeast of the city of Baoding, in the Province of Hebei surrounding Beijing, the humble village of Dōnglǘ﹙東閭村﹚ has never been well known. Donglu became a Catholic village during the active missionary period, and the Vincentianserected a church dedicated to Our Lady in the nineteenth century.

The year 1900 was a bloody year in the secular and Catholic history of China. The Boxer Rebellion broke out as a result of foreign domination, and Catholics were easy targets as Catholicism was viewed as a foreign institution of domination. There were about 700 to 800 Catholics in the village. When persecution broke out, about 300 to 400 Catholics from elsewhere fled to Donglu.

In June 1900, more than 3,000 strong Boxers surrounded the village. It should have been an easy job for them to conquer the simple village. It would be absolutely impossible to lose, with the great army equipped with cannons among other weapons, as opposed to a village greatly out-manned and out-powered. However, the Boxers were unprepared for divine intervention.

The clergy summoned all the old and the children to the church and asked them to pray fervently to Our Lady of Donglu. They prayed day and night, while the young fought with the Boxers. It was reported that for several times “a woman in white” appeared above the church, shining brightly and floating in the air, witnessed within and without the village. There was also the phenomenon of “an army of white angelic figures riding on white horses”, reported not by the Donglu Catholics but by the Boxers. The army was seen marching into the village. There were other reported incidents that could not be understood by natural reason alone.

The Boxers fought daily against Donglu for several months, acquired reinforcements, but still could not conquer the village. They suffered the death of many soldiers and finally retreated.

During the Boxer Rebellion, all churches all over China suffered various degrees of damage, except two that were untouched: the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour in Beijing and the Church of the Blessed Virgin in Donglu.

After the Rebellion, the villagers of Donglu, in thanksgiving to God, replaced the old church with a new twin-towered Gothic-styled church in Donglu.

The Painting of Our Lady of Donglu

Original Painting of Our Lady of Donglu
After the construction of the church in 1904, the pastor commissioned a virgin to paint an image of the Blessed Virgin. The picture was placed above the altar but soon deemed not solemn enough for veneration. The new pastor, Fr. Flament, C.M., came in 1908, and immediately hired a French artist residing in Shanghai and commissioned another painting. This new painting replaced the original one above the altar immediately.

Basing on a painting of the Empress Dowager Cixi﹙慈禧太后﹚, the artist drew a portrait of Mary that is royal in appearance and high in prestige, holding a sceptre in her right hand. He also drew the baby Jesus dressed royally standing upright supported by his Mother, unlike the usual Western style of holding the baby Jesus in Mary's arm. At the top of the painting, these words were written: “Mother of God, Queen of Donglu, pray for us.”

Several miracles of healing attributed to the image were reported in the 1920s and 1930s.

Official Portrait of Our Lady of China

The first and only plenary meeting of the bishops in China took place in 1924 in Shanghai, presided by Archbishop Celso Constantini (later Cardinal), the great Apostolic Delegate to China. During the Synod, the bishops felt that an official portrait of Our Lady was needed prior to consecrating China to the Mother of God. Archbishop Constantini saw a replica of the image of Our Lady of Donglu that was kept in Shanghai, and decided with the bishops that it would become the official image of Our Lady of China. Pope Pius XI granted the request and promulgated the image as Our Lady of China ﹙中華聖母﹚in 1928.

Because of the official promulgation, it is the only image that can be legitimately called “Our Lady of China”. The painting and the village that enshrines it have had a long and prominent history, although unfortunately few Catholics in China and in the world know about it. In 2002, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., dedicated a mosaic of Our Lady depicted in Chinese style on the left side of the nave, but incorrectly labelled it as Our Lady of China.

National Shrine of Our Lady of China

Because of the decision at the plenary meeting, a small shrine under the patronage of Our Lady of China was built and dedicated in 1926 right next to the church in Donglu. Shrine activities were promoted and became very popular, especially in May, the month of Mary, when a great number of pilgrims travelled to Donglu from afar to pay tribute to Our Lady of China.

With the petition of the local bishop and the report submitted by the apostolic delegate Archbishop Maro Zanin, Pope Pius XI bestowed the title of national shrine﹙國家朝聖地﹚on the church in 1937. The only other national shrine canonically approved in mainland China is the well-known Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians in Sheshan﹙佘山進教之佑大殿﹚near Shanghai.

Destruction and Rebuilding

Unfortunately, war broke out with Japan in the same year, and in 1940 the government used the church for storage purpose. One day an armed soldier came in the church and shot at the painting, leaving a hole in the top. Knowing that the painting must not stay there, two young parishioners broke into the church on one night and hid the painting, and later courageously brought it to the bishop at the Baoding chancery office. In 1941, the church was destroyed. In 1948, when Baoding was liberated, the painting was returned to Donglu and kept safely at a parishioner's home.

The Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966. Catholic were ordered to hand out all religious items. The portrait of Our Lady of Donglu was also given to the authority and was stored in an elementary school. The painting was carelessly destroyed in 1969 when it was used a mat to place wheat on. 

The faithful in Donglu did not have a church until 1989 when they obtained the authorization to build a new one. In 1990, Pope John Paul II bestowed on them an apostolic blessing, which greatly encouraged the faithful in Donglu. Construction lasted 3 years and involved help from many strangers who offered help. The new church was dedicated on 1 May 1992. A faithful but inexact replica of the original image was again placed on top of the high altar.

Recent Activities and Persecutions

Because of the formal papal recognition of the shrine, underground Catholic pilgrims have always considered Donglu as a sign of fidelity to Rome, despite the fact that the shrine is officially administered by the Chinese Patriotic Church and “patriotic” churches are in general detested by underground Catholics. The Office of Religion of the Chinese Communist Party has always feared any symbolic sign of unity of the underground Catholic Church its possible influence on a great mass of people. After the reconstruction of the church, the religious authority has forbidden religious pilgrimages to the destination. Despite warnings, Chinese pilgrims still flocked to the shrine.

During the Marian month in 1995, over 100,000 underground Catholics came and prayed at the shrine. It was reported that a spectacular apparition took place on May 23 that year and was later certified by the local bishop. In 1996, the government wanted to stop pilgrims once and for all, and mobilized 5,000 troops, about 30 armoured cars and some helicopters to seal off the village and destroy the shrine. Since then, persecution on the underground Church, as well as restriction and surveillance of the patriotic Church in the region, has increased significantly. Ever year, especially when May is approaching, the inhabitants in the village are warned not to conduct formal public ceremonies and banned from hosting Christian pilgrims travelling there from outside the village.

Presently there are about 2,500 residents in the village, and a great majority of them are Catholic. Priests and bishops who have resided in the parish have constantly been jailed or even “disappeared”. Although daily Mass is celebrated, outsiders are not allowed to participate.

My Pilgrimage to Donglu

I have personally visited thousands of shrines and churches around the world, but I must admit that my visit to the National Shrine of Our Lady of China﹙中華聖母國家朝聖地﹚in Donglu is certainly the most memorable. I had read so much about Donglu but had no idea how to commute to the village, but I trusted in divine providence.

I was in Beijing for a work trip in 2004. On the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I travelled alone to Baoding, the major city that is closest to Donglu, via a slow train from Beijing. From Baoding, I flagged down several taxis, but they had no idea where Donglu is, at a time when Google Maps did not yet exist. Finally, I found a taxi driver who knew Donglu only because he grew up nearby the village, and I thankfully jumped into the taxi. After more than half an hour's ride, I could see the spires of the church from far away as the taxi was approaching the tiny village.

The taxi driver let me off near the church, and I begged the driver to wait for me there so that he could take me back to Baoding. Fortunately he agreed. The next major hurdle came when I found the gate to the church locked. I rang the bell, and a priest came out to meet me. To my disrupted joy, he said he could not let me in. I begged him to let me visit the church for I had come from a long distance. He then explained to me that visitors were not allowed by the government and I would be in great danger if the police would found out about my visit. I again begged him, and his heart softened. He looked around from behind the gate, and hurried me in.

I was extremely thankful! Standing in front of the colourful façade of the shrine with such a rich history, I rejoiced and praised the Lord. As I did to each church that I had visited, I took out my camera and tried to take some pictures. The priest stopped me from doing so! He again warned me that, for my good, I should not take any pictures. If I were caught with photos of the church banned from the public, I would be in deep trouble! As the Hongkongese saying goes, you have not visited the place if you do not take a photo. I again begged the priest that I would take the risk. He looked around, and told me to snap the shots quickly. And quickly I did.

The priest then took me into the church. I again had to beg the poor priest to let me record the memory in pictures, and he told me to take one or two only. Needless to say, I took many.

The church, built in the form of a cruciform, features 4 lines of pews in a single aisle, separated from the sanctuary by an altar rail. As in the Chinese custom, two banners were hung from the two columns. On the left is written “Adoring the Blessed Sacrament with a hidden body who humbled and lowered himself onto the altar”, and on the right “Praising the Blessed Mother who is crowned with pearls and ascending onto the throne”. Such a beautiful poem in the form of couplet with parallelism!

The interior of the church is not richly decorated, but the jewel—the painting of Our Lady of China—is found on top of the high altar. Words alone cannot explain the beauty of the image adequately. Pay special attention to the gowns worn by the Virgin and the Infant Jesus.

Present image of Our Lady of China in the National Shrine in Donglu
After admiring the portrait and praying there for a short time, I thanked the priest gratefully. As much as I love taking pictures, I did not dare asking for a picture with him for fear of his safety. The father escorted me out of the shrine, after ensuring there were no plainclothes policemen or officials in sight. I found the taxi-driver waiting for me, and happily returned to Baoding and then to Beijing, feeling as if I had come back from heaven.

Looking back to that day visiting Donglu, I still feel immensely thankful. With my very limited Mandarin at that time, without any prior knowledge on how to go to the remote village, I was able to see Our Lady of China with my own eyes. I could have been caught by police and even possibly put to jail. If I had to choose again, I would still do it. What else is better than finding yourselves in a church blessed with a priceless treasure and a blessed history?

Please pray for the Catholics in China belonging to either the patriotic or underground Churches, that they may freely worship Christ and venerate her Heavenly Mother.

Our Lady of Donglu, pray for us.
Our Lady of China, pray for us.
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Fire, baptism and division

Reflection: Luke 12:49-57 The Gospel for this Sunday is part of Jesus’ teachings to the disciples during his journey to Jerusalem, where death on the cross awaits him. Jesus explains the purpose of his mission through three images: fire, baptism and division. What is the fire that he came to bring on earth? What is the baptism that he must receive? Why does the Lord say, he comes not to bring peace but division? After the flood in the book of Genesis, God makes a promise: “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen 9:11). Therefore, the Israelites came to the conviction that, to cleanse the world of iniquity, God would no longer use water, but fire. The fire of God is not intended to destroy or torture those who committed mistakes. Instead, God wants to destroy evil and purify us from sin through the fire of his Word and the Holy Spirit. This fire lit by Jesus is his Word that saves, cleanses, and heals. It is his Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, descended like tongues of fire on the disciples (Acts 2:3-11) and changed their lives forever. “How I wish it were already kindled!” It expresses Jesus’ burning desire to see the world’s weeds burned in the fires of his Word and Spirit. The images of baptism and fire are interrelated. To unleash the fire of the Spirit, Jesus says, he must first go through a baptism. This baptism refers to Jesus’ immersion in the waters of death. He will indeed be overwhelmed by the waves of humiliation, suffering, and death, but these will not extinguish the fire of his Word, love, and Spirit. The books of the prophets have introduced the Messiah to be “the prince of peace”; during his reign, “peace will have no end” (Is 9:5-6). At his birth, in Bethlehem, the angels sing about “Peace on earth!” (Lk 2:14). But now, Jesus says he has come to bring divisions. Jesus was only quoting a passage from the prophet Micah (Mic 7:6) to explain the divisions between young and old generations and among the family members. The Words of Jesus is the fire that wants to destroy all the unjust structures, inhuman situations, discrimination, greed for money and the frenzy of power. Many reject the words of Jesus because they feel threatened by this “fire.” They react violently because the Word of God disagrees with their projects of selfishness. At this point, divisions and conflicts arise. Today the Lord confronts us with the question: How fiery is your love? How fervent is your faith? Can our faith accept contradiction and ridicule without reducing us to silence?

Friday, August 12, 2022

 “Do not prevent them”

Coffee With God

13 August 2022

Reflection: Matthew 19: 13-15 Who doesn’t love children? Parents and family love watching them growing up. Being a parent is a vocation. But giving birth to a child does not make anyone a parent. A parent is one who accepts the task of integral formation of a child and raises him or her into physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual maturity. Today’s Gospel reminds us of our responsibility to take our children to God. How often do we hear secular-minded parents say, “Faith is a personal choice, and religious beliefs should not be imposed on children? Let the children choose their faith when they are old enough to do so.” But these generous parents, ironically, do not give that equal freedom to their kids when it comes to choosing the food they eat, the dress they wear, the schools they go to, and the activities they engage in. Because when it comes to these aspects, parents believe they know what is best for their children and wish to give them the best of everything. The Gospel talks about people bringing their children to Jesus so that he might bless them. A faulty understanding of secularism and personal freedom prevents today's parents from bringing their children to God. There are many Catholic parents who do not consider religious and faith formation as anything worthwhile. The parents would not mind if their children skipped the Sunday liturgy and catechism to attend tuition classes and co-curricular activities. While giving their children the best of everything, parents no longer feel the necessity of introducing God to their children. It is the sacred mission of the parents to teach their children not only to aspire to be successful people in the world but, even more, important to aspire for heaven! “Do Not Prevent Them” Jesus rebukes his disciples who tried to send the parents and their children away from approaching Jesus: It is a moving Gospel narrative. Our experience is that children in grave difficulty are often given extraordinary parents, ready and willing to make every sacrifice. Parents of children with special needs turn out to be extremely gifted special parents. But these parents should not be left alone! As disciples of Jesus today, we should not leave them aside; instead, we must accompany them in their struggles and offer them moments of shared joy so that they are not left alone with their daily routines. Pope Francis reminds us of the lesson about the angels of children: The Lord judges our life according to what the angels of children tell him because these angels “always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven” (cf. Mt 18:10). Let us always ask ourselves: what will the children’s guardian angels tell God about us?

Thursday, August 11, 2022


God blesses the choices you make with Him

Coffee With God  

12 August 2022

Reflection: Matthew 19: 3- 12 Once again, Matthew presents a catechesis for his community on issues of marriage and divorce and human relationships. Perhaps he was witnessing troubles in family relationships in his community and reminded them of the sacredness of marriage. The influence of the Judaisers and Pharisees on the Christian community was so strong because most of the believers who accepted Jesus came from the Jewish faith. Now Matthew reminds them of the teachings of Jesus on marriage. It is not an ordinary union of one man and one woman; instead, it is a sacrament – because God wills it in his creative plan. The world of Jesus and Matthew was patriarchal. On marrying, the wife left her family and moved to the husband’s home, becoming a member of the husband’s extended family. Both remained under the general control of the husband’s father until the father’s death. Within the culture, only the husband could initiate divorce; the wife could not. But, Matthew wished to insist to his community that Jesus denied the universally accepted right of the male within the culture to initiate divorce. The answer given by Jesus, “What God has joined together, let no person separate,” fails to convince many people even today. Many continue to raise the same question of the Pharisees: “Is it legal to divorce?” The Gospel answers – Marriage is a Sacrament – willed by God – and the Sacraments are for life; they are not meant for a short period. It is never easy to have two people united as a couple. The Word of God teaches us that married people are no longer two but one. But how does that logic work? It is the logic of love, surrender and sacrifice. The love between the spouses enables them to sacrifice their lives for each other. Jesus often compared his love for his people to the love between spouses. St. Paul would develop this teaching to describe the relationship between the Church and Christ. Love without conditions, total surrender to each other, and even offering one’s life for one’s partner are the principles of marriage. This is how Jesus loves his people - the Church, without conditions, even unto death on a cross. Whoever believes in Jesus and agrees to live by what Jesus taught would not consider separating from one another.  

The fear of the disciples of Jesus is our fear today. They say, “it would be better not to marry!” Many youngsters are afraid of making choices in life – for marriage and family or for religious life and priesthood. They are afraid of failure in their choices. Running away from making life choices is failing to place our trust in God. Pope St. John Paul II told the youth: “God will not make choices for you, but he blesses the choices you make with Him.” Jesus repeats his words of power and encouragement to us: “Do not be afraid, only believe.” 

  “You will pay for it”!

Coffee With God

11 August 2022

Reflection: Matthew 18: 21 - 19:1 Jesus gives us a catechesis about the unity of brothers and sisters and ends it with a promise: "I assure you that if two of you on earth will agree and ask for a grace, it will be granted to you." Unity, friendship and peace among brothers and sisters attract the kindness and providence of God. But it is not always easy to be in unity with people around us. There are disagreements and quarrels. And Peter asks, "What should we do with the people that offend us? If my brother offends me, how many times will I have to forgive him? Seven times?" And Jesus answered with an idiom, "Seventy times seven," which meant, “always.” You must always forgive. Our selfish heart is always attached to hatred, revenge, and resentment. We have all seen families destroyed by hate. Hatred is passed on from one generation to the next. We have seen siblings who, in front of the coffin of their parents, refuse to greet each other because they carry on old grudges. The devil succeeds in making us believe that nurturing hatred is a symbol of being strong and to love and forgive is an act of weakness. The devil always occupies himself among our grudges and destroys everything. It succeeds in keeping us away from the Lord who celebrates our repentance and forgets all our wrong-doings. When God forgives us, he forgets all the evil we have done. God loses the memory of the awful stories of so many of our sins. He asks of us only one thing: "Do the same: learn to forgive." Have you ever said to anyone: "You will pay for it". This word is neither Christian nor human. The generosity of Jesus teaches us that to enter heaven, we must forgive. Remember the Lord raising this question: "When you go to Mass, and you remember that your brother has something against you, reconcile first; don't come to me with love for me in one hand and hate for your brother in the other." May the Lord teach us this wisdom of forgiveness that is not easy. And let us do one thing: when we go to confession, to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, let us first ask ourselves, "Do I forgive?" If I feel that I do not forgive, do not pretend to ask forgiveness because I will not be forgiven. Asking for forgiveness is forgiving. They both go together. They can't be separated.

 Bible Portico 

The latest title from the Pastoral Bible Foundation! 
A priceless resource book in Chinese for Bible Study 

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Hong Kong and Macau Community Response to Corona Crisis

It was by January 6th that Macau community was getting fully aware of the crisis that was unfolding in China. From that day onwards, Jijo kept contact with the priests and bishops in China through translation help from Sr. Viktoria. He kept calling Ningbo, Beijing, Nanjing, Weinan, Anhui and Wuhan almost every day. Then the priests and bishops started talking about shortage of masks and the increasing number of deaths there.

In the next week of January we knew that it was an epidemic. Our first response was to ask the Indian medical students in Ningbo with whom Jijo was in touch with regularly, to get out of Ningbo. There were 4 students who had no plans to go to India for shortage of flight fares. We contacted the Indian embassy in China and asked for help which they did not. Then we arranged some funds and they managed to fly back to India. The internees had to stay back and they stayed put there.

On 28th Keicey, our student in Spain sorrowfully informed that his relatives had come away from Wuhan and was staying in Gunagzhou but had no masks. We managed to collect 200 pieces and sent to his family which arrived there only after two weeks.

We then wrote a letter of solidarity to all the bishops with whom Claretians were familiar with. We were specifically requested for masks from Anhui (Hunagshan) bishop and the priests in Ningbo. Then we looked for masks to be sent to China. We could not gather since there was a ban on sale of masks in Macau already. In the meanwhile we asked Fr. George Kannanthanam CMF from Bangalore, if it was possible to send some masks. The initial parcel of 1000 pieces did not reach Macau.

Fr. General called us almost every day to update the matter and we asked him to send a letter of solidarity to the Chinese bishops which he promptly did. The letter was sent to all the bishops and the bishop conference, who responded with great respect and gratitude. The letter was published in the weekly of Faith Press. At the request of Fr. JB Zhang, we contacted the mother General of the MC sisters in Kolkatta, requesting for a letter of solidarity. She did that very promptly.

Then by 1st of Feb, we had decided to bring in some masks from India through a person. By 5th of Feb. when Mr, Sibu was bringing 10000 pieces of masks from Bangalore, that very day the Government of India had blocked the export of any mask. Thanks to the airport staff’s mercy, Mr. Sibu boarded the flight with a heavy luggage. When he reached Kualalampur, his flight to Macau got cancelled. He managed to board another flight and arrived Macau. I paid them 1500 USD. Further expenditure was incurred in sending goods to China for which Fr. Rossa transferred 1000 Euros from Hong Kong community.

On 19th Jijo had a talk with Hong Kong community over skype to discuss what could be further done from our communities. It was decided to act on Fr. Jojo the prefect of apostolate’s advice (Fr. Jojo was in Nepal at that time). Then Hong Kong community decided to contribute a sum for charity related to Covid-19. The 1000 Euros the Fr. Rossa transferred came after this decision.

By that time, flights from Macau also was getting cancelled and a few cases got reported in Macau as well. Sibu’s return flight was cancelled. Thankfully, he was able to get an earlier flight and reach back to Bangalore safely. A team of volunteers helped us repack the masks and they were sent to Jin De charities, Hebei. The paperwork was difficult and sending was filled with uncertainities. Fr. Jijo then contacted red cross China and they helped in moving the cargo through SF freight company.

The Nuncio was kept informed of the activities.

Once we successfully sent the cargo to Hebei, there were other requests from JB Zhang. He asked for funds and logistics help for moving cargo from Portugal, arranged by Opus Dei (Fr. Mandia). We originally agreed to bring the cargo to Macau and I promised to sort it to Hebei. Fr. General and Fr. George and Jojo were kept informed of the developments. Then, Macau closed down. Moving cargo to Macau was difficult and with the advice of Mr. John Mampally, the regional manager of Lufthansa for cargo the materials were instructed to be directly sent to Shanghai from Portugal. Fr. General then,  advised against more involvement that needed money.

On 11th Feb. Fr. Jijo’s mother expired. He decided not to go, due to the quarantine conditions in Kerala.

By, now it was getting clearer that the whole world was going to be affected by this crisis. The demand for masks were increasing and could not be found. With Fr. George Kannanthanam, we  explored the possibility of installing a mask production machine in Bangalore which was later was abandoned on the advice of the General.

When the first cases were getting reported in Kerala and Delhi, I discussed with Fr. George about the need to close down the Churches. We drafted a letter and sent to CBCI, KCBC and other bishops with whom we are familiar with. After the initial resistance, CBCI and bishops started sending circulars asking to close down the Churches. Later, on 22 of March one day shut down was announced in India. It was found an ill prepared address of the PM to India and I wrote on my FB page and on Whatsapp groups, what were missing in the address. After a few minutes, Fr. Mangattuthazhathu from India  called to say, that it is important to write and express difference of opinion. Fr. George Kannanthanam was also of the same opinion. The same sentiment was shared by other whatsapp groups.

The following day, however, Fr. Jacob from Bangalore wrote that such writings would endanger all Claretians in India with political vendetta, to which I made a curt reply, noted, thanks.

Later, Fr. George discussed about starting the online support centre for corona crisis to which I readily agreed and discussed the matter with Jojo. was floated with the help of Santhosh from Billion Lives tech company. The Chinese consultancy is handled by Jijo. It gave opportunity for me to get connected with a lot of good willed doctors and social workers in India.

In the meanwhile Fr. George and I discussed about how the Catholic medical facilities should be made available to the Government for the care of the patients. Fr. George then drafted a letter to this effect after consulting CHAI and other Christian Hospitals association which I edited and  was submitted to CBCI. The body promptly pledged support to the Government of India for treating the patients.

As soon as the shut down in India began, Fr. George and I discussed the need to give support to migrant workers who will be stranded in the cities. We discussed the matter of asking our bishops to open up our schools to give shelter and food to these people who will be rendered homeless in just a few days. Fr. George later drafted a letter and sent to me for editing written to the Archbishop of Bangalore ccied to Fr. Xavier Manavath about availing the schools and personnel during the time of the disaster. Two days later, the Archbishop of Bangalore notified that 5 schools in the diocese would be set apart for taking care of the migrant workers.

Fr. Xavier checked on my health status, seeing a very emotional letter I wrote to George saying that perhaps some of us will have to loose our lives in this battle, probably I and George. When I wrote that letter, I was developing sore throat and slight fever. The following morning I went to the hospital for a test. After the initial look on my throat, they said, I was on a mild risk category and sent me for detailed swab test. For 8 hours I stayed in isolation and the test came thankfully negative. I found the agony of those who are under screening and isolation.

Later I called up the Health Department in Macau and suggested to segregate the patients with mild risks and serious risks. The practice was to put all men in one room and all women in another after taking the swabs. That gave chances of spreading among them if one of them in the room happen to be positive. The Department then, thanked me and assured that immediate steps would be taken to  change the rooms.

One of the things that Fr. George and I discussed was taking care of the people who will be stranded in the cities without documents. At that time, the Government had not announced yet any economic package for taking care of them. Then we decided to a launch a program called Corona Care Bangalore, together with two other organizations that were working with Fr. George during the flood in Kerala. I consulted the matter with Jojo and he said, he can provide 500000 INR from the Procure fund. This amount was then advanced by Dr. Anand to Project vision account.

26th March
Patricia started raising another fund raising campaign and reached an initial amount of 25000 MOP. More funds are coming in. From the US., Bobby is also raising some funds. He promised to send 50000 INR. I informed Kannan that this amount would be transferred soon to India.

2nd April
Mr. Mampilly from Hong Kong also promised to transfer some funds from his Indian account. He is given the local account number of Hope. Today, Cita also promised to contribute 5000 MOP.
The funds kept coming through different funds for the survival kit projects. We had reached around 130000 by the end of April.

In the meanwhile we had published a book in Chinese for the Provincial of the Franciscan Friars in Philadelphia. He mentioned that they were in short of masks. On16th April, a group of volunteers from India including doctors and nurses enquired if we could mobilize some masks for them.

Eventually we ended up sending 30000 masks to Fr. Thomas Betz to the University hospital and 5000 to his old age home. Of these 20000 masks were sponsored by JB Zhang, Jin De. 10000 masks were collected by the friends of Fr. Jojo And MC sisters in Macau.

By 6th of May the Indian volunteers in Dallas also received our 4500 masks for which they paid.

The forwarding costs for all these, were taken care of from the funds raised by Grace Educare.

May 17th. The Churches opened. Grace Educare. Volunteers had organized a Bazaar for raising funds for Northeast Province of India where they had visited. An ill prepared lock down in the area brought food shortage. They pledged 100000 INR to the Procurator of the Province.  The Bazaar brought in 30000 MOP which was forwarded to Hope, Claretian Seminary who will forward the funds to Northeast Province.

Draft report
Jijo Kandamkulathy

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Christmas in the fishing village of Tai O

 Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel in Tai O has a small Catholic community in the peripheries of Hong Kong. A 45 minutes bus drive either from Tung Chung or from Mui Wo in Lantau Island would take one to the Chapel in this fishing village. The chapel belongs to the Epiphany Parish, Mui Wo and has a weekly mass at 10 am on Saturdays. 

Although few in numbers and in their old age, Catholics in Tai O did something extraordinary in this Christmas for the people living in the vicinity and for hundreds of visitors who come from far and near. They recreated the nativity scene, utilizing the entire premises of the chapel.

A huge Christmas crib was set up at the entrance with life-size statues at the manger, giving a photo op even for the passers by. Hundreds of flowerpots decorated the premises, giving the chapel a face-lift and festive ambience. A large collection of religious articles such as holy medals, rosaries, statues of saints, t-shirts with religious themes and spiritual books are on display for grab. The small chapel in the first floor hosts the main crib, complete with angel flying down on the manger!

A curious addition to the elaborate decorations this year was a display of enlarged images of Christmas postal stamps from around the world.  Numerous counties in the past have issued postal stamps with the nativity theme. Explaining the display, Claretian Father Jojo Ancheril said that one of their priests had a large collection of Christmas stamps and the idea was to display how the nations around the world celebrated Christmas in the history. Hundreds of tourists, especially those from around the world who visit Tai O every day during the Christmas holidays found it amusing to see these rare stamps on display, he added.

The Community organised two Christmas gatherings during the season, one for the people of the locality – especially the elderly of Tai O and the second one for the alumni of Wing Cho primary school which was closed down in 2003 after serving the community for over six decades.

Other than the weekly Mass on every Saturdays, the Chapel organises overnight Eucharistic adorations on the first Fridays of every month. Although the Catholic presence in the region is very nominal, various prayer groups and religious organisations frequent to the chapel for a day of seminars and recollections. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

PBF proudly associated with the 200 Million Copies of the Bible

200 Million Copies of the Bible printed in China

Amity Printing at Namging (Nanjing), China, the largest Bible Printing Press in the world scaled yet another milestone on 11/11 this year when it rolled out the 200 millionth copy of the Bible printed in its state-of-the-art facility. Amity printing is a joint project of the Amity Foundation, a local Christian NGO, and United Bible Societies (UBS).
Bible printed for the Bible Society of South Africa had the privilege to be 200 millionth copy. The press began operating in 1987 and Amity Printing Company (APC) was established in 1988. An association of 145 national Bible societies, Amity Printing produced its first copy of “the Good Book” in 1987.

Today, Amity Printing operates with high speed, state-of-the-art printing equipment, run and operated by 500 staff. The new 85,000 square meters facility is capable of printing more than 20 million copies of the Bible a year, and is currently producing an average of one copy per second!

Amity has printed Bibles in 130 languages. While the printing company produced 85 million Chinese Bibles in its 33 years of history, over 114 million bibles were in foreign languages.
Pastoral Bible Foundation, under the umbrella of Claret Publishing Group, has printed and published over four million copies of Bibles with Amity Printing Company in 12 different languages including Chinese, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Tagalog.
Fr.  Alberto Rossa with the Amity Printing Company's recognition for "All Weather Friendship" with Claretian Communications, Philippines, together with with Fr. Jose Cherukara, Allan and Bob. 
Fr. Alberto Beto Rossa, Director of Pastoral Bible Foundation and Fr Jose Cherukara participated in the celebrations for the 200 millionth Copy Bible in Nanjing.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Cantata -2019

Fr Jijo and Team organizes Cantata -2019

The International Choral Singing Festival of  Macau, named Cantata Macau is coming out with its 4th edition from Nov. 8-10, 2019 in Macau. This year the festival will feature competitions between reputed choirs from Asia with a Grand Prix award of 50000 MOP. The festival will open at 2 PM on 8th November in Fatima Church and conclude by 7.30 on 11thNovember at Saint Paul School Auditorium.

File Picture of  Cantata 2018
The Festival is organized by Saint Augustine’s Choir, Macau with their Spiritual Director, Fr. Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF. Running on the 4th consecutive year, the festival is now sponsored by different Government agencies of Macau, viz., the Tourism and Cultural Departments and The Macau Foundation.
FR. Jijo Kandamkulathy
The idea of the choral festival germinated with a need to re-signify Macau as a place of spiritual heritage rather than as a haven of gamblers. The gambling industry does not represent the people living here. Gambling, rather entertains the people who visit this place. What would truly represent Macao would be its spiritual heritage with long tradition of Catholic faith here. With the talent at hand, and the Catholic World Heritage sites here, the organizers found choral singing would truly represent Macau’s Catholic past and its true spiritual nature.

The festival has now become a platform for people from different cultures to meet and share their music experiences. This is an enriching experience for the participants themselves. The attendance of schools in the event has increased over the years indicating the educational value of such international events everywhere.

This year, 17 acclaimed choirs in the international choral circuit from 8 different countries will participate in the event. The joint symphony of the festival participated by all the choirs will be conducted by the maestro from Macao, Mr. Barrie Briones.

This has become an event awaited by the connoisseurs of music in Macao. 

“Although I did not quite understand the meaning, the heart rending Philipino song ‘Anak,’ stood out in rendition and performance (last year). I noticed that some Philipinoes sitting near me sobbed loudly during the performance of the song. Eventually, I learned from others that the song depicted the heart-melting story of the parents lamenting for a son lost to drug addiction. That was a song with social relevance as well,” said Mrs. Judy, one of the guests last year.
With Bishop Stephen Lee, Bishop of Macau in 2018
“The choirs also brought in the mood of Christmas in early December itself. Aptly, they added some world famous carol songs to the event. We were smoothly elevated to the Christmas mood. I did not realize how the song accompanied us home us until, I heard my little son hum the tune over and over again,” said another participant last year.

One of the highlights of this year is the electronic booking system. Those who want to participate in the event can scan the QR code and register their attendance online. The festival also features a competition named the most popular choir. The guests can vote for the best choir in their judgement by on their own mobiles and an award will be given to the choir that earns the highest votes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Two Weeks in Tai O

October 16 to 28 in Tai O (one of our chapels under Mui Wo Epiphany Parish - Hong Kong), 21 sisters participated in Two-Week Biblical Course on Jesus of Nazareth. The program was a joint-venture between Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sisters of Our Lady Queen of Angels. The sisters belonged to two groups: a local congregation and consecrated virgins.

The course was divided into the following parts:
(1) The Word of God before incarnation;
(2) The mystery of Incarnation;
(3) The Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry;
(4) The Judea period - journey towards Jerusalem; Passion and the Resurrection;
(5) Conclusion - the mystery of Ascension.
There was also time for the sisters to relax, pray, avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and visit few places around in Hong Kong - Cheung Chau and the Trappist Monastery.

The problems they face are the following:
1. Overworked - all of them mostly stay in parishes and seldom visit their communities; not much time for personal prayer and spiritual development;
2. They have lesser opportunities to participate in formation courses t
3. Bible remains still a “closed book” - few of them are fully familiar with it and biblical literacy
among laity seems to be low; do not know how to read it and pray with it

Seeing their eagerness to learn the Bible was truly touching. Despite so much biblical materials available online, nothing replaces teacher-students relationship. It is not just how much you know about the Bible but how much you are passionate about the Book. They need teachers who would pass on the passion for the Bible to their students

Thursday, October 24, 2019

149th Death Anniversary of Father Founder

Claret Feast 2019 in Hong Kong

Launching of <喜樂之源——四福音及注釋>Four Gospels and Commentaries in Chinese in the Extra Ordinary Mission Month 

The Feast of St. Claret was celebrated on 24 October in the Claretian House in Shatin with a group of close friends and associates of Claretians. Fathers from Macau and Hong Kong communities hosted the event which began with a Mass at 6.30 pm followed by dinner. 

At the end of the Mass, Fr. Rossa introduced the reprint of 
<喜樂之源——四福音及注釋>, published for the purpose of the Missionary Month and distributed copies of them to all the participants, reminding their responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus. 

Antony Claret was born in the year 1807 in a small town called Sallent in Spain. His parents were God-fearing Catholics and grew up in faith. His Father was textile manufacturer and he wanted young Antony to take care of the family’s business. 

Antony was given special training in textile industry. As any other youth of his time, he nurtured ambitions to become a successful business man. But during his training period in the city of Barcelona, some special events made him to change is attention from becoming a business man to do business for God. Once he was saved from being drowned in the sea and he believed that it was Blessed Mother who helped him to get back to the shore. He had a special love and devotion to Blessed Mother. So, in his later years, he added the name of Mary to his own name – so he is known as Antony Mary Claret. He decided to dedicate his life for the gospel and so left his studies in textile industry midway.

He joined the seminary to become a priest.  After becoming a priest, he realised that most of the priests were remaining in their parishes and involving in numerous activities, but there were not enough priests to preach the Word of God. Therefore, he together with five other priests began a community of preachers on 16 July 1849. He named this community as the “Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” In 2019, we have completed the 170th year of the founding of the Congregation.
Father Claret later became an Archbishop and and served in the far off mission diocese of Cuba. Archbisop Claret was a powerful preacher, confessor and social reformer and miracle worker.

He wrote 100s of books and booklets and distributed 
among the people to read, for two reasons: First, he said, “if people do not have good books to read, they would turn to bad ones.” Second, he said, “I cannot go every place to bring the good news of Christ but my literature can reach all the places that I cannot go.” 

Today, for example, we cannot personally be present in China for 
example.  But We are distributing/selling over 120000 copies of the Daily Gospel in China every year. Our Chinese New Testament and other books are reaching numerous dioceses in the mainland.

So today Claretians 
are involved in the Ministry through Media and the Claret group of Publications have 12 publishing houses around the world, including the one in Macau. Fr. Rossa coordinates the works of all these publishing houses of the Congregation around the world.

Archbishop Claret died on 24 October 1870. Next year this day,
will be 150th death anniversary of our Father Founder. Archbishop
Claret was canonised in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.

After the death of the Founder, the members of the community adopted name of the Founder as the alternative name for the community and started to be called as Claretians. Thus we are known in two names: Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Claretians.

Today over 3000  Claretian missionaries – priests and brothers - are involved in the ministry of spreading the message of the Gospel in 67 countries around the world. As we all know, 3000 is not a significant number, unless with the selfless contributions of 1000s of mission partners who work with us in every little work we take up.
We are profoundly grateful to each one of you for being part of our mission in Hong Kong, Macau and China. Without your support and accompaniment, we wouldn’t be what we are today. We thank the Lord for making us his instruments in spreading his message. 

We also pray for all the missionaries and all those who are associated with us in the ministry. Through the intercession of St. Claret our Founder, may all of us who are gathered here this evening receive all the necessary graces to seek God’s will in our lives.