Friday, May 01, 2015

Retracing their footprints....

Our Missionaries on arrival in Hefei were given a cordial welcome
On numerous occasions, we have talked about the Pioneering Claretian Presence in China in the 1930's  in a remote region in the Province of Hefei, called Huangshan or Wongsaan. On the Easter week of 2015, the friends and well-wishers of Claretians from Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan accompanied by six missionaries made a pilgrimage to this region - a first of its kind activity since the return of the missionaries to the region twenty years ago. Here is a report:  

Fr. Mario exchanging sign of peace during a Eucharistic Celebration in Hefei 
“Returning to the roots” could be a jargon but still would fit well to express my feelings on my trip to Huangshan. The great interest shown by the entire East Asia Delegation in organizing this pilgrimage itself was a sign that how much does the Claretian Community value our history and draw inspiration for our missionary projects in this frontier.

The 38 pilgrims from Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan
were greeted by the local community in Hefei
We 38 pilgrims including six priests, from Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan had set out for a pilgrimage to Huangshan in China on the Easter Monday of 2015, taking with us the message of the Lord’s resurrection!
People falling on their knees before the priests for a blessing
One of the best outcomes of the pilgrimage, I would say, happened much before the actual event itself: “Retracing their footprints, Revisiting our China Mission” – publication of the booklet in six languages, tracing back the history of the missions undertaken by our pioneers in China, thanks to Fr. Paco and Claretian Publications Macau, was indeed providential! If not for this event, a brain-child of Fr. Mario, the booklet would not have been a reality.
Our team on the Snow-covered Huangshan 
Another positive outcome of the pilgrimage cum sight-seeing tour was that we could bring together friends and well-wishers from Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan as one group under the banner of the Claretians.
Fr. Jojo exchanging peace during the Eucharistic celebration 
This being the first ever joint venture by us, hats off to Jojo and Mario for taking the initiative and to the communities of Taiwan, Macau and Japan for the support offered.

Fr. Takenobu venerating the relic of the Martyrs of Barbastro, placed in the Chapel in Huangshan 
 Presence of Fr. Takenobu in the group, representing the Delegation Council, was indeed an encouragement. This has definitely helped the members of the group to realize and appreciate the commitment to and richness of our mission in China.
The group from Hong Kong on the Mount Huangshan
Although I have heard many times about the old mission centre in Mainland China, this first-hand experience of our pioneer mission brings me a better understanding of the situations. The fact, that our missionaries had gone to such far off places 70 years ago when infrastructure and transportation facilities were bare minimum and had worked under such hazardous surroundings in itself is an inspiration for our present missionary efforts in China, particularly in the mainland.
Mr. Nicholas (In the middle with a cap on his head) the only surviving
Catholic from the time of our pioneering Claretians in China in the late 1940s 
In Huangshan, I have seen how much do they desire to attend the Holy Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament. I have heard some of the group members from Hong Kong, after being prevented from celebrating mass, commenting that “How blessed are we that we can attend the Mass and receive the Eucharist every day!”
The officials got wind of pilgrims in Hunagshan and they accorded a good accompaniment
 even with a smart, young linguist who was fluent in Japanese, Korean, English and Spanish!  
I admire the enthusiasm of Fr. Mario! Although he couldn´t celebrate the Mass, he had a sort of ‘dry Mass’ with singing all the songs of the Mass, veneration of the statue of St. Claret and the relics of the Bl. Martyrs etc.
The chapel in Hunagshan 
People gathered there were so enthusiastic as well. They sang their heart out! Mario went around the chapel greeting people, holding the hand of Mr. Nicholas. It indeed created a feeling of the Resurrection!!
Colours of life! 
Even at Hefei Cathedral, as we were about to leave, all the faithful gathered there approached the priests and fell on their knees asking for our blessings. I realize that the people are in need of priests to celebrate the Word of God and the Eucharist, but there are very few of them for such a vast region.
The chapel in Hunagshan, where a statue of St. Antony Mary Claret
 and the relic of the Martyrs of Barbastro are placed 
The sightseeing part of the trip, going up the snowing Huangshan Mountain by cable-cars and a visit to the Hefei world heritage centre in particular, was beautiful as well. Indeed the travel and accommodation were well taken care of.

Looking back into the pilgrimage just concluded, I believe Huangshan still needs our support and encouragement. We need to find ways to reach out to them either directly or through our friends in the parishes in Macau, HK and Taiwan.
三兄弟 = This means "Three Brothers".
The popular Bollywood movie - "Three Idiots"was translated as 

A click for history books! I was happy to be clicked with
Nicholas and Frs. Takenobu and Yoon from Japan 

For more stills from the trip. scroll down the page and watch the video! 

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