“No photographs are typically permitted in the church, but the Chinese official in charge kindly allowed us one group photo. In the midst of us is the crypt and headstone of St. Francis Xavier.” Pilot photo/Courtesy Gregory L. Tracy
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This week I am celebrating my fifth anniversary as Archbishop of Boston. It has been a very awesome responsibility that the Holy Father has entrusted to me. I am very grateful to all of the help and support on the part of our priests, laity, religious, deacons and friends of the Church who have made it possible for us to move forward in these very difficult times.
This milestone coincides with our bicentennial year. It’s a time for us to look back over the last 200 years that have been filled with so many graces and blessings, with great growth and, although the last few years have been very painful and challenging, we know that God’s providence is always with us, guiding us and calling us to deepen our sense of conversion and commitment to the mission that Christ has entrusted to us. There are still many challenges ahead and we count on the prayers and the cooperation of the Catholic community as we face our future with hope.
... In my last posts I’ve blogged on my experience at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia.
This week I thought you might like to hear about one of the groups of youth from our archdiocese who had something of a unique experience. On their way to Sydney the youth passed through China and began their World Youth Day pilgrimage visiting churches and holy sites in the area, and proclaiming the Good News among the people they met.
This week I have asked Father Tony Medeiros, rector of our Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, to share his reflections and photos of the trip with you.
Father Medeiros’ account
Together with a group of 50 young pilgrims and some adult chaperones from the various Neocatechumenal communities throughout the archdiocese, we left Boston on July 9 to attend World Youth Day.
... On our way to Sydney--and in order to help us live World Youth Day as a pilgrimage--we had hoped to fly first into Darwin, Northern Australia, and to spend a week there among Australia’s aboriginal populations, announcing the Gospel on the streets. However, Divine Providence and the rising cost of airline tickets rerouted us to China and we ended up spending a week in Hong Kong and Macau before continuing on our way to Sydney.
For me to return to this part of the world had a particularly special meaning, as it brought back many and fond memories of the time that God allowed me to spend there as a missionary.
Today Hong Kong and Macao are mostly known for their vibrancy, fascinating cities teeming with people and constantly undergoing great changes.
Yet, one of the less-known facts about this part of the world, and indeed our main reason for visiting Hong Kong and Macao, was to visit an island in the South China Sea called Shangchuan.
There, on the night of December 2, 1552, completely alone and suffering from a very high fever, St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of the Far East missions, died with his eyes fixed on China, even before he could ever set foot on the mainland.
... Sunday (July 13) started early for us. We needed to be on the other side of the border by 9 a.m. to catch the bus that would take us to the ferry into the island of Shangchuan. In addition to the usual steamy hot and humid weather, it was also raining, sometimes torrentially!
In the bus we did morning prayer and read bits and pieces of the last letters written by St. Francis Xavier shortly before his death.
At last we arrived at the little chapel housing the first burial place of St. Francis.
Here we spoke of Francis’ life, of how he came from a noble and wealthy family and had given up everything to announce the Gospel. Suddenly we were brought to that moment in time, as we too had become witnesses not just of Francis’ feeble condition but also of his undying zeal to bring to the great Chinese people the divine inheritance of the Gospel.
In a country both rich in cultural traditions and enslaved by the fear of the power of spirits, Francis had sought to give the Chinese people the liberating Good News of the Gospel, spending his life to the last to make sure that each of them received what was theirs by divine right and, that is, that in Christ and through baptism each of them truly was a child of God!