Visita a Xujiahui

DSCN6918La mañana del sábado 23 de Mayo del 2015, parte de la comunidad hispanohablante de Shanghái realizó una peregrinación a la zona de Xujiahui, donde se encontraba antaño el centro de la Iglesia Católica en Shanghái, de gran influencia no sólo en Shanghái, sino en toda China, especialmente en el área circundante. Sin duda, podemos decir de Xujiahui es semilla y savia del catolicismo en Shanghái.

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Pigrimage to Tunxi

IMG 1431“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. 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!

One of the best outcomes of the pilgrimage, I would say, happened much before the actual event itself: “Footprints” – 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.

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A Month in Indonesia

With some Little Chicken from japanI arrived in Yogyakarta on 3 February after an overnight at Singapore airport. Bobin was the first to arrive for the Meeting on the Brothers, as he had come the day before. In the evening of that same day, we went to the pastoral center of Semarang Archdiocese where we would stay for three weeks: a week for the ASCLA-East Meeting on the Brothers, and two weeks for the ASCLA-East Formators' Workshop.

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A Christmas Story

IMG 2877There is a bold woman of 84 years in Huilai who takes care of the 20 plus leprosy patients in a leprosy village. Being an old acquaintant, I had promised her to be with them for Christmas. It took me 7 hours of bus journey from Zhuhai to reach this dusty old time pottery town. I was picked up by a young girl on a rickety scooter to the lepers village about 7 tortuous Km. away from the town. Somewhere during the conversation, the girl told me, she was also a patient. I asked her, “does it matter?” “Of course,” she chuckled, “to some.” It took me some time to digest the stigma that they silently bear for contracting an illness that they are not responsible for.

IMG 2827But there was a Christmas miracle awaiting me. It left a deep impact in my thoughts. There is a young girl who was affected by the sickness and was almost on the brink of death because of the allergy she had for the medications. But today she is the picture of a bubbly young woman with a handsome boyfriend. Although, now, she lives with him outside the leper’s village, she came back to the village to celebrate Christmas with them. The couple took part joyfully in a Christmas drama we played to entertain the inmates. The way both of them went around wishing all the inmates brought tears to many eyes. It is an act of Christmas adventure from the part of the young boy to make a decision to live with her, knowing all her past. I find an unconditional Christmas love story in their lives, another daring Joseph.

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Teaching English in the Northern Cold

View of the middle school at the back of the seminary on a snowy dayI came to this northeastern city of the Motherland on the last day of August 2014. There are 11 sisters in their renewal course and 29 seminarians with 7 formator-priests and a seminarian in his pastoral year, who was ordained deacon on 3 January this year. English was offered as an elective, so not all students opted to study it. I have only 12 students: 6 seminarians and 2 sisters every Tuesday afternoon, and 4 every Friday morning. Besides their weekly 100- to 150-minute classes, some students also scheduled personal conversation practice. I expected this to last no more than 10 to 15 minutes, but which turned out to be an hour for every session. What could we talk about for an hour, specially with their limited range of vocabularies? What was supposed to be simple English conversation practice turned out to be formation dialogues about the seminarians' life, vocation and spirituality. Autumn was just beginning when I came; the weather was cool and pleasant, but by the end of September, it started to get cold with the temperature even dropping down to 1°C though it was still autumn. They say that here they have 5 months of summer, another 5 of winter, and a month each of autumn and spring. The first snow came the last day of November, and it had snowed five times before the New Year. It was here that I experienced walking in the street at –23°C, all wrapped and covered but still feeling the freezing cold. Though it is cold outside, the place is warm, not so much because of the heating, which maintains the room temperature at 16°C, but because of the community of priests and seminarians. The seminary is all but the 6-story building and the basketball court at the back since the land that is still part of the seminary property is now used by the best middle school of the city. The seminarians after supper usually go out for a walk to the public park nearby, where the Catholic cemetery used to be. To help the students learn English in a way relevant to their life, I write a reading lesson weekly based on the Gospel and first reading of the Mass for the coming Sunday. As expected, they will need hard work, patience and determination if they really want to learn another language.

(The photograph is a View of the middle school at the back of the seminary on a snowy day)

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