Hengshui (AsiaNews) - The bishop of Hengsui, Msgr. Peter Feng Xinmao, visited with members of his curia more than 70 " vocational families," that have produced priests and seminarians. The visit took place three weeks ahead of the Chinese New Year, a festival which shows respect for parents and elders. Feng, the bishop told AsiaNews that the visit has served to emphasize the Year priestly course. "It's the first time - he says – that I have visited the families of major seminarians," although visits of this kind have already taken place.
The bishop's vicar general of the diocese, Fr Shao Zhanyuan, Chancellor Fr. Luo Limin and Secretary Fr. Zhang Lanjiang joined the bishop on his visits. Going two by two, the four faced the cold winter to visit the families, who reside mostly in rural areas. In every place they reached, the bishop or his delegate blessed the family and asked for prayers for priests and seminarians, as well as an increase in vocations.
The diocese has sent a liturgical calendar to each household with photographs of the ordinations, and food, like milk or cooking oil, for use during the holidays. The bishop inscribed eight Chinese characters on the calendars that read: "Vocational Families, God bless you."
The bishop, 46, said: "People were touched and happy for our visit. Our priests, as well as seminarians come from families that have been Catholic for generations, where the faith is deeply rooted. Their parents are generous and support vocations. " The flame of faith burning in the diocese of Hengsui continues, "it could come from the martyrdom that has characterized it".
"Many of the 56 holy martyrs of Hebei killed during the persecutions of 1900 – he highlights - come from here." The martyrs of the province were in the group of 120 Chinese martyrs canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, and their testimony could also explain the large number of local vocations. The minor seminary, said bishop Feng, "currently hosts 90 students, but the number is growing."
The next Chinese New Year, which opens the Year of the Tiger, falls on February 14. Ash Wednesday, which this year is celebrated on 17 February, thus coincides with the fourth day of the festivities that last for 15 days. The prelate explains: "Our people are very traditional for the most part, they come from the countryside. I think that they will strictly observe the Lenten fast and abstinence days, avoiding celebrations. I do not think they will celebrate St. Valentino.
After the New Year, the diocese will launch a month of promotion for vocations, another way to highlight the Year for Priests: "As bishop, I believe that my mission is to keep the priests united and do more to evangelize .
The prelate is one of the young Chinese bishops who studied abroad at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. Hengsui ordained bishop in 2004, is pastor of 25 thousand faithful. New Baptisms are celebrated every year, thanks to the 38 priests and dozens of churches working in the diocese.
The Diocese of Hengshui is the ancient Jingxian. Its name was changed in 1980 by the government to adjust the structure of the diocese to state administration.