Missionary in China

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

February 26, 2004

 

            Our parish has a mission in China. Well not exactly a mission, but we do have one missionary.

            We are helping to support a woman from our parish who has gone to China to teach English as part of a foreign mission program. She was placed there through a program at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

            Her story is one that tells us something about the future of missionary work in repressive countries. It also tells us about a new role for laity in the Church. In the future, it will be lay missionaries who will be able to enter these controlled societies, where clergy cannot go.

            China does not officially allow missionaries. Religion is closely regulated by the Communist government. If you are not part of some officially sponsored group, you cannot get into China.

            But the do allow teachers of English and other subjects. Indeed, the Chinese are very keen to learn English to do business with all the American firms arriving on their soil as they “out source” our jobs to China.

            So our parishioner was placed in an English teaching job at a University in a major city in the Sichuan province of China. She supports herself by her work at the university, living in a single room in housing for foreign faculty.

            She teaches English and American law to students there. She also sponsors an “English circle” in which students come under the guise of reading English texts. The text she uses is the English Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

            Her English “circle” group is not large. No more than six to ten people. But they are enthusiastic students. They are also interested in Baptism and desire to come into the church.

            All our parish has paid is her airfare to and from once each year, along with health insurance and a few other expenses. The cost of our missionary is less than $2,000 per year.

            But the benefits of this are enormous even eternal. The greatest benefit is the salvation of souls and the spread of the gospel.

            The program is not just helping the Chinese. It is helping her and helping us.

            When our missionary was home this year she told our parish of the affect her mission is having on her life.

She said, “This has saved my life. Literally saved my life.”

Our missionary is a 50-year old woman, trained as a lawyer. She is a convert to Catholicism herself. She had been a pro-life lobbyist in Washington, but that job ended. She went into business, but her business went bankrupt. Her love life was at a dead end. She was loosing hope.

One day she came to see me in some despair. I told her to do what Gideon did in the Bible, “Cast her fleece before the lord.” In other words, take a risk in God’s name.

            After some weeks of discernment, I asked her, “What was your childhood dream?” She answered, “To go to China and be a missionary.”

            I said, “Well, do it. If it is the Lord’s will, He will find a way to make it happen.” He did. She is now in her second year in China.

            It is not often that a parish priest gets a sense of the meaning of salvation. We seldom know whether or not we make a difference.

 But our parish missionary’s experience is making a difference in three sets of lives. It is bringing Christ to her students in China. It is saving her life from despair. And, it is giving us a lift by allowing us to share in her work.

Our words, our presence and our money are making a difference.

My prayer now is for mission, for all of our parishioners.