Saturday, September 01, 2012

Interview: John, A Chinese Claretian Student

John has completed his theological studies and hopes to be ordained a Claretian priest shortly. He has spent the last month in China sharing his experiences and helping in the missions.Upon his return to Manila via Macao , we had the advantage to have chat with him.

What activities did you have in the last month?
Hunan Province, China
My first stop was in Hunan Province which has about 70 million inhabitants. I spent a week at a center that serves people with special needs. I learned a lot living among them. Some religious serve these people with special care.

Then I went  to the neighboring province of Guizhou. It is a beautiful place in nature, but is one of the poorest regions of China and one of the rainiest: 270 days of rain a year.
Beautiful scenery 
The waterfall is 78 meter drop and 101 meters wide.
Guizhou has 40 million inhabitants. About 60% of the population is illiterate and a third of its people have no transportation or communication facilities.
Guizhou Province, China

Were you in a parish ...

Indeed, by contact with other friends, priests of the parishes invited me to give lectures to local people. We met in the afternoons between 20 and 30 people, hungry to hear the Word of God.

How are there parishes?
It's a very special reality. French missionaries (MEP) established missions in this area at the beginning of the last century. Part of their legacy are the beautiful churches that have left behind for us.In the new Chinese administration, three dioceses are reduced to one: there are 70 parishes and 20 only priests!
Guizhou Typical Church in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou
The Church itself behind.
but without a parish priest ...

You say that the diocese has two bishop ...

Yes one is the famous Bishop Aniceto Wang Chongyi, who is still active at the age of 93; he is very friendly and well loved by people. I had a pleasant conversation with him.

John with Bishop Wang
The other is a much younger Bishop, Paul Xiao Zejiang - It was appointed in 2007 with the approval of the Vatican and the Chinese government. 
Bishop, Paul Xiao Zejiang
John with Bishop Xiao
They welcomed me with open arms ... and invited me to stay as a missionary in the diocese. Bishop Xiao is very active and well appreciated in the vast Catholic diocese.

What other activities did you have in the city of Guinyan?

There too I gave a retreat for about 20 religious. We had eight days of reflection, sharing, prayer, personal growth and community life. This was a very special experience for me because not only I could give some lessons of learned in 10 years of training, but also could learn a lot through the testimony and commitment to this community.
A moment of prayer during the retreat
The two bishop joined us at times during the days of retreat.
Bishop Xiao and the religious group after the retreat

What role do these religious have in the Diocese?

They serve the diocese. With only 20 priests for 70 parishes, nuns dedicate themselves in serving these parishes. They are responsible for all pastoral work in coordination with the bishops and priests.

I say it's a martyr Church ...

There are several martyrs' graves dating from the Ching dynasty and some from the time of Cultural Revolution: priests, seminarians and lay Catholics accepted martyrdom here. One of the elderly religious knows these stories very well and I had the opportunity to listen to her for a while. The Church of Shaanxi recalls with particular devotion to its martyrs.

John with the sister who shared with him the life of the martyrs.
Tomb of the martyrs
Praying with the martyrs

What do you take from this experience in China?

China needs more missionaries. The people are hungry for spiritual food. I listened to many stories of people who have to work hard and want to find the meaning of life. They did not want me to go ... asking me to stay longer with them. I was impressed by the hospitality of these people and, especially, of the bishops.

And with the authorities?

One must know how to dialogue with the authorities ... many have no idea of Christianity, but they are good people.

What do you do now?

Now I have the last stage of my missionary training, evaluate all the experiences and hope to have an opportunity to return to work in China.

Yes, John! We wish you the very best and God's blessings in abundance in the mission of bringing the Gospel to your own land and people...

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