From Cardinal Seán’s blog

This week, in addition to my weekly events, I’ve asked Father Michael Nolan, pastor at St. Mary’s in Waltham, to write a guest post on his trip to mainland China on his way back from World Youth Day:

... My accommodations in Beijing were provided by my friend, Rev. John Chen, who is the Vice-Rector of the National Seminary. Father Chen is a priest of the Diocese of Tsing-Tao. Father John prepared for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and later received a degree in higher education from Boston College. He is well-known in Boston especially to those of Sacred Heart Parish in Quincy. Father John is an awesome guy who works hard, even though it seems he is always joking and laughing.

... The Catholic Church has undergone some changes in the past few years but it still faces the same old threats to her survival. Paradoxically, her fragility and small size may be her greatest strength right now. The most striking change is the building of a new seminary complex. The last seminary was one building with many problems. In 2006, they moved to a brand new seminary complex with eight huge buildings.

The campus is centered around a large circular temple inspired by the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is considered one of the most beautiful and important buildings in China.

I think the idea is to show that Christianity is not hostile to China and to remind Catholics that Christ brings everything to fulfillment. The walls in the crypt of the chapel, which is dedicated to the Mystery of the Annunciation, are painted to look like a cave, reminding worshippers of when the Church was in the catacombs.

What hasn’t changed is the constant pressure the Church faces from the government. Every local church in the world has to deal with government meddling and interference, but the Chinese situation is extreme. The Church always has to worry about its property. There are internal pressures as well. Rivalries between “Patriotic Association” followers and “Underground” followers continue to weaken the Body of Christ.

Vocations to the priesthood have dipped in recent years. One of the leaders of the Bishop’s Conference told me this worried him and that he wanted to keep strengthening the formation of seminarians instead of relaxing standards. I suspect that the birth control mentality and policies for all Chinese families is discouraging vocations the way it is in the West.

Another challenge is how the Church must spend a great deal of time and effort negotiating with the Chinese officials to defend her rights. Yet the government has allowed the Church to receive help from foreigners. I spent time with a few priests, nuns and lay people from the United States, Ireland and the Philippines who were teaching a course for religious sisters and brothers of communities from all over China.

Ms. Joanna Chao, a former member of the faculty at St. John’s Seminary, was one of these teachers. Recently, a woman from Germany came to teach a brief foreign language course. She liked it so much that she asked to remain and is now teaching German and English full-time at the seminary.

... I am committed to pray more and more for the Church in China out of love for them and for all the people of this great culture. This “little flock” living in the midst of constant government interference and pressure is really the hope of this nation no matter how economically developed China becomes.

Also in this week’s blog:

> Visiting Father Jim O’Donohoe.

> Consecration of Kathy Reda as a perpetual virgin.

> Final vows of Sister Holly Gauthier, PM.

> Pastoral visit to Corpus Christi-St. Bernard in West Newton.

> Annual retreat with the bishops of the New England Region.