News

From 2020-02-10 to 2020-03-20

Heritage and Future

We must be conscious of our origins. I myself am the product of two cultures, with parents from different countries. I can’t deny my Romanian or Quebec roots. It’s my duty to preserve them in order to contribute to the society that I belong to and identify with. Our heritage should neither divide us nor homogenize us. Rather, it should help us enrich and expand our humanity. Today’s Quebec unites people from all over the world around a shared language and set of values: freedom, sharing, collaboration, compassion, and community. We must strive to reach a place of harmony by bridging the old and the new. Together we can build a society that remembers the past, but also looks to the future.

 

STRENGTH THROUGH UNITY

There are many doomsayers in the world who speak only of intolerance and live off the fear they instil in others. They would like us to believe that there are many classes of citizens and categories of people. Political divisions distract us from the true issues our society faces. All around the world there are forces trying to distance and divide us to better rule. As the gap between rich and poor widens, we dig trenches of suspicion and contempt. As our democracies falter, we point accusingly at the Foreigners and blame them for all our troubles. Ignorance and intolerance come with a steep price, and we need to remedy the situation before it’s too late. If in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, in the land of the intransigents, the demagogues rule. One of the greatest challenges of our time is to resist the irrational call of demagoguery as it spreads destruction like wildfire. I believe that solidarity and empathy are innate to all humans and can serve to unite us. Instead of building walls (or promising to do so), we should be building bridges. Let us build hope rather than division.

 

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to visit Rome. While the city is known as a hub of Catholicism, I was struck by the coexistence of countless churches from different backgrounds and beliefs. Far from being chaotic, the eclectic cohabitation occurs in harmony, with respect for the city’s history and sacred spaces. Rome’s inclusive and peaceful atmosphere complements the policy of openness and dialogue implemented by Pope Francis after his election. It is encouraging to see such an important figure – not only in the Catholic world, but also in international diplomacy – calling for open dialogue and understanding between nations. His desire to bring people together is admirable, because he’s betting on unity and peace rather than resistance and exclusion. No matter where we come from, whether we’re rich or poor, young or old, let us be tolerant and open to others, because it is the only way our societies can evolve. This is the message we need to transmit. We are all human, and temporal or geographical coincidence should not dictate what kind of life we are able to lead.

 

DREAM

Cynicism and defeatism are barriers against all types of evolution. We need to dream. Dreaming sparks a desire for progress, which in turn leads to action. Telling ourselves that our society cannot change because things have always been this way, and will continue to be this way, is extremely damaging. Sometimes changes are necessary, and believing in them is the first step towards realization. A self-respecting society remembers its history and has strong foundations. Our memory is just as important as our ability to adapt. We must be like the reed in the fable as it faces the storm – with deep roots to hold us in place, and flexibility to tackle adversity

 

From 2020-01-10 to 2020-02-20

SHANGHAI, YESTERDAY AND TODAY

THE DOWNFALL OF SHANGHAI

Soon Communism came in and turned the whole country upside down. Shanghai suddenly fell into a black hole of darkness and fear. Life under such a regime was stripped of all freedom and individuality. The massive attack on the Catholic Church began the era of persecution and martyrdom. People were fleeing to Hong Kong including my parents who hoped to start a new life for us there. However, after 1951 the Communists sealed all exits; my two brothers and I were left behind. Gone was my safe haven! I was then six, my oldest brother, the care-giver, was only sixteen and my other brother was ten. Despite our misery, God was there to care for us through our generous and loving relatives who, notwithstanding their misery, sheltered us and provided for our existential needs.

The Church being under surveillance, faith practices became really challenging and dangerous. I witnessed the invincible faith of my people whose courage to walk in the footsteps of Christ led them to the concentration camps and prisons. It made me understand, early in life, that without faith, life is meaningless but with faith, no one can strip away your inner peace, freedom, hope and joy even in the midst of persecution! Catholics lived fully the Beatitudes. My brothers and I witnessed the arrest of our dear Bishop, the late Cardinal Kung. That was a symbolic moment that marked me for life. It deepened my understanding of what it means to follow Christ and to carry his cross. Perhaps this was the beginning of my desire to consecrate my life to Christ.

TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

God has a way of making the impossible, possible. It was September 1957, with the help of our relatives we grabbed an unusual opportunity and made our exodus to Hong Kong. Who were the first people to welcome us? They were the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception! In retrospect, I understand this was not an accidental encounter; ahead of time, God was preparing the way for me to be a part of the prophetic dream of Venerable Delia. Ten years later, His Will was manifested—I joyfully said YES to Him and accepted to work in his vineyard with the MIC Sisters!

VISITING MY ORIGINS

In 1981, I returned to Shanghai for the first time. I was so deeply saddened to see my people living in a greater state of misery. Shanghai was in a dilapidated state. Most of the Churches had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution or were being used as markets and camps. My parish, St. Peter’s Church, had become a museum. It made me want to cry, because the people were walking in darkness with no hope in their heart. All my cousins who had suffered from the Cultural Revolution returned home physically sick, uneducated and unprepared to enter into the work field.

I visited many Catholics who had suffered long term imprisonment and were then released. What touched me most was that no one complained about their suffering, everyone was serene and at peace. Blessed, indeed, are the poor in spirit, the humble of heart and the persecuted for Christ’s sake, the Kingdom of God is in their heart! God never left his people despite years of desolation! I walked away with mixed feelings—joy and pain.

SHANGHAI TODAY

Like a Phoenix rising from its ashes, Shanghai has risen to a new reality! Oct. 2007, fifty years after my departure from Shanghai, I returned for a second visit. Within a period of twenty six years, Shanghai has climbed to the top of the world with its incredible new glory. Again, China has welcomed the West to assist in its rebirth. Globalization has somehow reached China, especially Shanghai. It has raised the standard of living and has given hope to the people. My relatives are no longer suffering; most of them have a reasonably comfortable standard of living. Churches are being restored even if they are still under restrictions. The number of believers is increasing each year, priesthood and religious vocations are on the rise. When I visited my parish, St. Peter’s Church, I was surprised to attend an English Mass where westerners and Filipinos join the local Chinese in celebrating the Eucharist. Yesterday’s memories came like flashbacks. The seeds of faith, sown yesterday, are still bearing fruits through those who have survived persecution; they continue to pass on the Holy Fire of God’s Love to other thirsty hearts! How long will this last? The future will tell!

THE DIOCESE OF SHANGHAI — 400th ANNIVERSARY

We could say that Quebec and Shanghai are twin dioceses. Both were founded in the same year by French missionaries and celebrated their 400th Anniversary of Foundation in 2008. No wonder I felt at home when I joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception; it seemed there was already a sense of belonging to the ‘déjà vu’!

Cecilia Hong, m.i.c.