Columban Mission in China

12th December 2012 - by Eamonn O'Brien

Eamonn O’Brien, Director of UK-based Cultural Exchange with China, returned to the London office this week after several months in China.

He has been coordinating a 40-day training event for directed silent retreat facilitators, and preparing for an 8-week renewal course for priests, sisters and laity at the National Seminary. The Shirjiajuang Seminary, the largest in China and with about 150 seminarians, is located in the province of Hebei, which has the largest Catholic population in China. It hosts art and design training for a group of sisters; providing them with skills that can produce a 10ft high stained glass window or a simple decorated candle for meditation use. Another group of sisters in the seminary do a year’s course on music. The seminary offers a one year renewal course for clergy, and the China Formation Committee will have a seven-week segment of it in April 2013, but will include sisters and lay people for that segment.

Another bridge between Catholic Churches of UK and China
From 6 October to 17 November, a team of two spiritual director supervisors from Loyola Hall the Jesuit centre of spirituality in Liverpool, facilitated a 30-day retreat for 15 participants and three sets of 8-day retreats for 15 participants. Their task was to supervise the training of three local spiritual directors so that we can offer 30-day retreats later. This was the second visit of the team from Loyala Hall. The initiative was under the sponsorship of the National Catholic Seminary and was intended to offer follow-up support to graduates of our 3-year training course for spiritual directors – 19 graduates participated. The newly appointed, but not yet installed, Bishop of Handan was one of the retreatants and we had two lay people. The location was marvelous for walks, soaking up nature and enjoying the huge selection of fresh vegetables being produced there. It also renewed contact with the diocese of Tianjin, whose current administrator studied with CEC in London.

Sinology World Conference 2012
In November, Renmin University of China held the second World Conference on Sinology, whose theme was ‘Sinology and the World Today’. Eamonn O’Brien attended. The forum as a whole, being an academic one, touched on all the issues that are taboo to ordinary people, ranging from corruption, economic development, the rich-poor divide, electoral democracy, with one scholar from the US comparing the quest for justice in the Old Testament with texts from the Chinese wisdom tradition. The conference was attended by 80 international scholars and about 100 from within China, allowing for making links with a wide range of people. It was especially delightful to reconnect with many contacts in China and especially with Professor Yang Huilin, President of the Conference, who was a member of an academic delegation invited by CEC to the UK when we engaged in conversations with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool Hope, Heythrop College and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Fifth Forum on Catholic Studies for young Chinese scholars
The event was a three-day one 5-7 December – and the theme was ‘Vatican II – marking the 50th anniversary of the Council’. More than 40 young academics, from as many universities and institutes throughout China, participated. The majority were not Catholic. All of them were expected to prepare papers on various aspects of Catholic Theology in which they were interested. The best of these will be published in the Journal of Catholic Theology, the only journal of its kind published in China and also supported by the China Formation Committee. Eamonn O’Brien made a 50-minute presentation on Vatican II and its impact.