Thursday, January 29, 2009

Welcome to our January 2009 Newsletter


On January 26 began the Chinese year 4707.
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.
Why New Year on January 26?

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-year cycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

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 presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year's Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the onset of the New Year as one great community.

And we are now on the Year of the Ox

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality.

How is the Ox? They are stable, fearless, obstinate, hard-working and friendly (….like Fr. Josep Abella born on the year of the Ox… Welcome to your 60th birthday!).

And here is a short Chinese story:

History of Chopsticks
How did the Asian food utensils originate?

In much of Asia, especially the so-called "rice bowl" cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, food is usually eaten with chopsticks.

Chopsticks are two long, thin, usually tapered, pieces of wood. Bamboo is the most common material, but they are also be made of various types of wood, as well as plastic, porcelain, animal bone, ivory, metal, coral, agate, and jade.

Some people think that the great scholar Confucius, who lived from roughly 551 to 479 B.C., influenced the development of chopsticks. A vegetarian, Confucius believed knives would remind people of slaughterhouses and were too violent for use at the table!

Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin

International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival started in Harbin, China on January 5, 2009 and will last for one month. These year visitors see sculptures of 100,000 cubic meters of ice with cost of more than 8 million Dollars.

Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, is one of the china's coldest places. Winter temperatures can drop to below -35 C.

With 190-day freezing season, the northeastern city of Harbin is known as a "City of Ice" and a cradle of the ice-and-snow culture in the world. The long and frigid winter, and the high plasticity and hardness of ice blocks quarried from the Songhua River, furnish favorable conditions for ice and snow sculpture.

During the festival, people can enjoy an ice lantern show, snow sculpture display, and international ice and snow sculpture competitions; winter swimming, ice hockey, speed-skating, alpine skiing, and cross-country skiing competitions; and ice and snow film festival exhibitions of paintings, calligraphy and photograph, folklore shows, ethnic song and dance parties, weddings on an ice-covered river.

A participation in the ice-snow festival can be compared to a visit to a fairyland of crystal palace. (But with -35 C !?... brrrrrr!).

Some good news for the poor in China…

China plans to subsidize health care nationwide

China announced on January 21 that it intended to spend $123 billion by 2011 to establish universal health care for the country's 1.3 billion people.

Xinhua, the state news agency, said the authorities would "take measures within three years to provide basic medical security to all Chinese in urban and rural areas, improve the quality of medical services and make medical services more accessible and affordable for ordinary people."

"Growing public criticism of soaring medical fees, a lack of access to affordable medical services, poor doctor-patient relationship and low medical insurance coverage compelled the government to launch the new round of reforms," Xinhua reported.

And now some news about the Church in China

Reach Out To Non-Catholics during Christmas Celebrations

TAIYUAN, China (UCAN News)-- The Christmas period has proved an opportune time for the Catholic Church in mainland China to evangelize, and 2008 was no exception.

Taiyuan is the capital of Shanxi province. Shanxi is the 11th largest administrative division of China in terms of area (205,800km2) and the 17th largest with respect to population (37,050,000)

In Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, tens of thousands who do not belong to the Church flocked this past Christmas to Immaculate Conception Cathedral to soak in the festive atmosphere and received free literature on Christianity.

This year, the cathedral administration prepared 10 different pamphlets, and printed a total of 300,000 copies, on aspects of the Catholic faith. These included the origin of Christmas and why people celebrate it.

Dozens of parishioners, nuns, and seminarians from the nearby Montecorvino Major Seminary distributed these pamphlets and explained the faith to visitors from the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, until dawn on Christmas Day.

The helpers also gave away 10,000 Catholic books and periodicals, as well as bookmarks depicting Christmas themes and the cathedral, to the continuous stream of people entering and leaving the building.

Meanwhile, a group of young Catholic volunteers ensured that the visitors who toured the cathedral did so in an orderly fashion, and that Catholics were able to pray and attend Mass undisturbed.

A seminarian shared with UCAN News that some visitors told him they knew that Christmas is “Jesus’ birthday,” but otherwise had little knowledge about the Church.

Bishop Silvester Li Jiantang of Taiyuan, 83, presided at the midnight Christmas Vigil Mass, after which Catholics and non-Catholics alike took part in games and enjoyed various performances in the cathedral courtyard until 5 a.m., even though Christmas Day is not a public holiday in China.

Taiyuan is already known to our readers. Claretians go there regularly to teach at the Formation Center. In 2004, the city had a population of 3.4 million.

Let’s now go South…

In Sichuan province, southwestern China, the Nanchong diocese cathedral held two evening celebrations, on Dec. 23 and 24, attended by many who are not Catholics.

Sichuan province is the 5th largest administrative division of China in terms of area (485,000km2) and the 3rd largest with respect to population (87,250,000).

According to sources, visitors were moved to tears on Dec. 23 watching The Soul of Love, a six-act musical portraying the life of Christ.

The Dec. 24 celebration saw members of an Internet chat group, Dream Kingdom, singing carols and hymns in Chinese, including Silent Night and Ave Maria, to an audience that included about 1,000 people who were not Catholics.

Dream Kingdom’s 500 members, who not only chat on the Internet but also have occasional face-to-face meetings, comprise mostly non-Catholic young workers.

These days, end of January, our own Fr. Peter Chao is in Sichuan attending to some religious communities. This is the Province that suffered the great earthquake last May 2008.

And now let’s go East…

Wenzhou Christians Hold First Ecumenical Concert, During Unity Prayer Week

Two Catholic parishes in eastern China's Zhejiang province, Wenzhou diocese joined with Protestants to hold probably the first-ever Christian unity concert in mainland China.

Zhejiang province is the 25th largest administrative division of China in terms of area (101,800km2) and the 11th largest with respect to population (47,200,000).

The concert on Jan. 18, first day of the Prayer Week for Christian Unity, attracted about 1,000 people to the Catholic Church in Leqing, a city 1,400 kilometers southeast of Beijing. Leqing and Xipian Catholic parishes in Zhejiang province co-hosted the event.

The concert, under the theme Walking the Road of Love Together, started in the afternoon with a Mass during which the local Catholic Tianyin (sound of heaven) choir led the hymns.

Local Catholic choir Tianyin (sound of heaven) leading the hymn-singing in an afternoon Mass and performed on stage at the unity concert on Jan. 18 to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2009.

A Protestant worship session followed, led by the Praise Whole-heartedly choir from Qingdao, in the eastern province of Shandong, 920 kilometers north of Wenzhou.

The concert's theme song was composed by a Protestant singer whose elder brother, a Catholic, wrote the lyrics. The siblings sang it at the concert.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed annually Jan. 18-25 in many parts of the world. This year's theme was “That they may become one in your hand (Ezekiel 37:17)".

In a follow-up event the next day, members of the Catholic run Tianren Rainbow website, based in Wenzhou, and Protestant musicians exchanged Church music.

They also agreed to do more together in the Christian music ministry in the future so that ordinary families could hear the Gospel in a lively form.

Taizé to print 1 million Bibles in Chinese

The Taizé community will print and distribute 1 million Catholic Bibles in China during 2009, announced the community's prior.

Brother Alois Loser revealed the plan to help the Christians in China at the conclusion of the closing of the community's 31st European meeting for youth, held from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1 in Brussels.

The community will print 200,000 complete Bibles, and 800,000 New Testaments with the Psalms.

"The word of God unites us more than division," said Brother Alois. "And tonight we are happy to offer a concrete sign of this unity, in particular with the Christians of China."

The Taizé community will assume the printing costs, which they have named "operation hope."

A pilgrimage to India

Fr. Jojo Ancheril had a chance to use his Cantonese as a “tourist guide” in India. This is his sharing:

It was a long cherished dream of some Hong Kong people to visit India. And some of the parishioners of Christ the Worker Parish (the parish where I stay for my language studies) approached me and asked my help to accompany them to India.

With the blessing of my superiors I accompanied 10 people aged between 48 to 83 yrs to India for three weeks last December. It was a challenging mission because many of them did not know English and I had to be a translator for them with my broken Cantonese. This pilgrimage helped the Chinese people to understand a different people, culture, customs, traditions, etc.

During the first week we had a retreat at Divine Retreat Centre at Muringoor. We then went to Bangalore where we visited many churches, orphanages, leprosaria, temples, etc. People from Hong Kong appreciated the unity and diversity in Indian cultures. It also helped them to understand the missionary dimension of our congregation.

It was a wonderful experience for us as well as the people of India. And had the joy of being a few days with my family and share many stories about China and about work there.

Then, back in Hong Kong, people who joined the pilgrimage shared their experience with the parishioners of Christ the Worker Parish. They shared about strong family prayer, the need to take care of the parents and elders, the need to have an extended family.

And I am very happy with the outcome of this pilgrimage and sincerely thank all the people who helped us in different ways to fulfill the long cherished dreams to visit India.

Meanwhile in Taiwan…

Two young Claretian missionaries from India arrived in Taiwan a few months ago. They are Fr. Joshy Chirayilparampil and Fr. Thomas Parackathottil. Both are studying Chinese in Taipei. Joshy shares:

When I finished theology I thought that at least for time being my studies were over, but it was not so when I came to Taiwan. We started our class on July 1st and it is still going on.
I found it very hard to learn Chinese at the beginning since our languages do not have tones as the Chinese language. I learnt to love this new language that opens for me a way to connect with new people and their customs.

My dream is to speak Chinese fluently and celebrate the mysteries of Christ in Chinese. I know my path is hard but still I hope the One who called me will give me the courage.

With the Filipinos in Macau

Our collaborators in Macau, Divine de Leon and Ian Dacayanan are helping the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Macau. Divine tells us about their work at the Center:

Sometime ago we shared here in our bulletin the opening and blessings of the new Pastoral Center for Filipino Migrants, just few meters away from our office/house. And last November we shared here news about the visit of some of our Bishops from the Philippines. The Bishops were curious and attentively listening to our sharing of the present situation of the Filipino Migrants. They inspired and challenged us: “Every Filipino Overseas Worker should be a true missionary” they told us.

Ian and I work at the Claretian office and recently we also started helping at the Pastoral Center. This work gives us a sense of fulfillment and belongingness to a group that serves our Filipino Migrants. We started by helping in the design and printing of the newsletter called Magkalakbay (co-journeyer / co-pilgrim). You can take a look at it:

The Pastoral Team, under the guidance of three Filipino priests, is divided into the commissions of Worship, Evangelization, and Social Services. Ian and I are now volunteers of the Commission on Social Services. We have our own group where we help in the formation of other volunteers.

Recently there was a seminar called CREM (Catholic Renewal Experience for Migrants). This is in response to the needs that the Pastoral Team saw after evaluating the past years problems in serving and reaching out the Filipino Migrants. There is a need for the Filipino workers and migrants to undergo a renewal and formation. The CREM is a product of biblico-historical reflection on the realities of migration; a monthly activity of the pastoral center.

Having to facilitate and emcee the whole day affair, I had to listen and do the recapitulations at the same time create an activity fitted to the needs at the present moment. This is really a challenge on my part, a longing to reach out and a learning experience to deepen my own personal journey.

Ian assisted on the technical aspects and helping in the preparation of the food and other activities. We are used to handle things like this. We both reminisce the time we had such activities in the Philippines.

Having been here in Macau for some time and being in the Pastoral Ministry and serving and growing with our co-journeyer give us inner joy. God really knows what we long for. Now the weekly formation of different groups has started. The first CREM was an inspiration. Filipino Migrants in Macau give us hope and joy. Maybe the challenge of the Bishops to all Filipino Migrants in different parts of the world can come true, with God’s grace.

A new member for our Macau Team:

From the beginning of this year, Tess Pardo, a veteran of Macau, is part of our lay Claretian community. Tess brings her knowledge, experience and apostolic zeal while helping us in our ministry.

News from the Pastoral Bible Foundation

Tamil Bible

We received news from Fr. Raphael, Superior Provincial of the Claretians in Chennay, India that after several years of work the first edition of the Tamil Pastoral Bible is ready for the press. We are pleased to be of help in this pastoral project and bring one more translation of this Pastoral Bible to the People of God (I guess that there are 13 languages with this one…).


New Testament in Kreyol

Let me also share that at the same time our team is working with our missionaries in Haiti for the publication of the New Testament in Kreyol (forthcoming later on this year).

Here is the first page of the Gospel of John:

“La Biblia de Nuestro Pueblo” free download in internet

We are pleased to inform you that now you can download for your personal use the bestseller Spanish Pastoral Bible “La Biblia de Nuestro Pueblo”.

As we reach close to one million copies, Claretian Missionaries (China) and Ediciones Mensajero (Spain) are pleased to make this Bible available for free in internet.

And our good friend Fr. Domingo Pacheco, working with his team from Argentina also makes this Bible and other books and pastoral resources available for free download.
Kindly check:

Five million bibles… and our share

The Philippine bishops are launching a campaign to place
5 million copies of the bible for the poorest in the Philippines.

We are helping…
At this moment we are printing 50,000 copies
of the Christian Community Bible
as a specially subsidized edition
that will be available for only $2.40 per copy.

The book has 1800 pages on a very readable print size.
Here is the new cover:

Our visitors…

We were blessed this last month with several visitors.
It is already a tradition: Fr. José Cristo Rey García Paredes, CMF goes to Taiyuan on the month of December to teach at the Formation Center. This year he participated in the graduation of 60 religious sisters who underwent theological formation during 2 years. The picture taken of the group together with authorities, professors and graduating class was with the weather at15 degrees below zero (centigrade).

On the way back, Fr. José Cristo Rey stayed with us in our “Barbastro House” in Zhuhai. In the picture, with some of our friends.
Salesian Fr. John Ledesma

Fr. John Ledesma, SDB spent a day with us between his numerous commitments in China and other parts of Asia. He has already earned an “honorary membership” to our community.

Whether in Beijing or Macau, Fr. John is a dear friend and collaborator, sharing our dreams and aspirations for China and helping us to carry them out.


Author and lecturer Megan McKenna

Taking some time off from her busy schedule and before going to Japan for a series of talks, Megan came to Macau and Zhuhai to spend a few days with us.

She gave us her last 9 published books as a gift… just the latest from the 36 she has written. We hope that her time off from her ministry will give even more inspiration for her fantastic work around the world.

Christmas Mass

An intimate pre-Christmas celebration on December 23
at our apartment in Zhuhai.

a “heavy” ministry…

As publishers we have a “heavy” ministry…
carrying heavy books,
but nothing compared to what you will see in this video: