Brief REflections on Change in Church and Society

2021-12-28 10:20:50 作者:Rev. Timothy Kilkelly MM 来源:信德网

Introductory Remarks

I was asked to share some memories and personal experiences of the changes that have taken place in the Chinese church and society over the years that I have been blessed through my relationship to the people and culture of China.   Over the years, this relationship has grown through a series of shorter and sometimes longer visits.  There was also a period of some two years where I studied language in Jilin and later served as an English teacher at Wuyi, University in Jiangmen, Guangdong Province.   In more recent years, I have continued my visits to China to order to interview students in application to the Maryknoll sponsored study program that began in 1991.  

China and early Childhood Experience

My connection to things Chinese really began when I was a boy.  I was one of seven children and my family gathered at 6pm each evening for the family dinner. My father worked in business, and every evening he would arrive home at the same time and the entire family would gather around the family table for the evening meal.  Generally my mother gave preference to my father’s tastes, and one of my father’s favorite dishes was called Chow Mein.   It may be apparent to some that the proper translation of this dish is Chao Mian. (炒面 ) Every few weeks the family would enjoy this meal of noodles and stirred vegetables.  It is true that frequently one discovers the foods one likes early in life.  I discovered that noodles of any variety is one of my comfort foods.  It is my meal of choice when I am looking for something light and tasty when visiting China.  

The first Chinese person I met and came to know was my 5th Grade teacher in my Catholic Primary School.  Her name was Miss Qian(钱老师)and she taught us all the subjects and I was especially grateful for her teaching in music. 

Early Adulthood and my Impression of my First Experience in China

My interest in Asia in general and in China in particular took another step forward in during my university years.  It was during this time that I was exploring a vocation to the priesthood and I chose to make a visit to Hong Kong in 1982 to visit the Maryknoll community there.  Most of this 30 day adventure was spent in Hong Kong, visiting various Maryknoll ministries, but there was an unforgettable experience that took place in mid-June of 1982.  We traveled to Macau first and from there crossed the border into the Mainland.  Our destination was the village of Cuiheng and the memorial garden constructed to remember the birthplace of Mr. Sun YatSen, considered by many to be the father of modern China.This short trip afforded me the opportunity to learn about a key figure in modern Chinese history.  In addition, visiting China filled me with some other strong first impressions that remain fresh in my memory.   Here I will name just a few.

My first strong impression was the large number of people that I saw, both in Hong Kong and in the Mainland.  Coming from a more rural US state of Minnesota, I was amazed by the sheer number of people.  The second strong impression was the countless numbersof bicycles I saw.  Cars and small mopeds were few and far between, but bicycles were everywhere.  And not being shy to try my hand at riding a bicycle in China, with the help of friends, I was able to rent a bicycle and explore the small village we were visiting.  It was fun to be one of literally thousands of people bicycling a beautiful summer afternoon. A third impression during this visit was the friendliness and hospitality of the people who found us as foreigners something of a spectacle.  They probably had not met many foreigners over the years and suddenly a group of foreigners were suddenly in their midst.  Many stared at us, not in an intrusive way, but to because they were genuinely interested in meeting and interacting with us.  I loved the whole experience.  A fourth impression of that 1982 trip came to me when we were in our small tourist bus in the countryside.  I notice that most of the farming was done by ploughs pulled by animals.  In addition, much of the work on roads or infrastructure projects were done by large number of workers.  Machines were less apparent.  The whole trip to Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangzhou was crucial in my decision to join the Maryknoll community and ask for an opportunity to serve this part of the world. 

Hong Kong and Pilgrimage to China in 1991

Returning to Hong Kong after ordination to the priesthood in 1990, I began studies in Cantonese language.  Half-way through this two-year course, I participated in a month-long pilgrimage to China in the May of 1991, visiting Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, and Chengdu.  The pilgrimage was to offer us the opportunity to learn more specifically about the church in China.  We met the bishop of Beijing for tea and conversation.   We also visited seminaries both in Beijing and in other parts of the country.  Leaving the deepest impression on me was the visit to Our Lady of Sheshan Shrine and to the Sheshan Basilica.  We arrived in the morning early enough to attend the Sunday Mass, and to my surprised, the Sunday Mass was largely celebrated in Latin.  The presiding bishop that day was Bishop JinLuxian.  His vestments spoke to me an age gone by, with the bishop wearing white gloves and wearing a long cope.  I had never attended a Latin style mass, so the experience was very interesting.  

After the Sunday Mass I observed humble people praying the rosary and the Stations of the Cross.  I was touched by the depth of devotion displayed by these people.  I tried to interact with my few words of Mandarin language with the many fishermen who came by small boats long distances along narrow canals to worship and pray.

I was blessed by several meetings from Bishop JinLuxian and learn how he was navigating the challenges of being church in China today.  It is interesting that under the guidance of Bishop Jin and Fr. Lawrence Flynn, the Maryknoll study program began in Shanghai in 1991.  The original plan was to choose among the Chinese seminarians capable of international study at diocesan seminaries in the United States.  One of the seminarians who I met at Sheshan Seminary, Br. Joseph Lu, would be among the first group of seminarians to study at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York I was able to meet and socialize with Br. Lu while he was in NY and many years later I was able visit Fr. Lu at a Shanghai parish where he was pastor.

In China as a Tourist

My next visits to China took place some years later around the year 2000.  These visits were largely for the purpose of exploring tourist attractions like the Li River in Guilin, which continues to be one of the most beautiful places I have visited in China.  Later visits to Dali and LiJiang also were unforgettable. 

Mandarin Language Studies 

My relationship to China deepened in 2010 when I began studies in Mandarin Language in Jilin City, Jilin Province.  In addition to learning the language, I began to teach English to seminarians and Sisters.  It was apparent that these young church leaders were intent on coming to prepare themselves for study and ministry.  More and more students realized at this time the importance of English as an international language.   By this time, more and more foreigners were arriving in China and there was a growing need to respond to the spiritual needs of these people.   Now it is not uncommon to have English masses offered in the large cities throughout the country. 

Experiences from Recent Years Reveal Real Growth in Church

From that first Sunday Mass at the Sheshan Basilica, there has been a tremendous development of the liturgical life of the church.  This became clear to me one Sunday on at the Beijing South Church in the fall 2015 when I was struck at the quality of the liturgy I experienced that day.  The music was lively and uplifting, the quality of those proclaiming God’s word was first-rate and the depth of the liturgical preaching was engaging and relevant to people’s life.  That one liturgy made me aware that the quality of liturgical life had indeed come a long way. 

But there has been a tremendous improvement in the quality of seminary formation since my initial visit to Sheshan Seminary.  The quality of the seminary curriculum is vastly improved and the faculty often is full of professors with advanced degrees from various countries throughout the world.  Increasingly, seminary formation takes into account the spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions.

I have also been impressed though the years with the development of the church’s social services agencies, those organization tries to make a contribution to the needs of the poor and the suffering in society.  Faith Charities and the many friends that work there have witnessed to the truth that people of faith are also committed to the alleviating the suffering of the sick and suffering.  I have felt deep gratitude to God for the service and compassion that is offered by these wonderful Catholic organizations. 

There are also many Sisters’ communities trying to serve needy orphans and the elderly with professionalism and compassion.  Sisters’ communities too have come a long way to contributing to the life of church and society.   

From Bicycles to Bullet Trains

In my recent trips to China, I realize that the world I first experienced in 1982 in Guangzhou no longer exists.  Tremendous progress in technology and innovation have taken place in many areas, but most especially with transportation.   In place of bicycles there are now bullet trains which make travel convenient and safe.  I have greatly benefited by this development personally.  

The Things that Never Change 

There has been a great deal of change since I first visited China in 1982.  But there are some things that have remained unchanged.  The hospitality and kindness that marked my first visit continues to characterize every visit I make.  Over recent years,I have been blessed to meet many graduates of the Maryknoll Study Program and it has always been a gift to see how many have assumed responsibilities of leadership and service.  They are a living treasure to the church and wider society.

What has also remained unchanging has been my desire to continue to be a builder of understanding and friendship that helps bridge the differences of culture and language.   I look forward the next chapter in my ongoing relationship with old friends and look forward to the promise of making new ones. 

Oh, and there is another thing that remains unchanging-- the next time I am in China, I will be on the lookout for another bowl of 炒面。

本文标题:Brief REflections on Change in Church and Society

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