Lintou (AsiaNews /SE)
- The first
contemplative monastery to be established in China since the foundation of the
People¹s Republic in 1949 was officially blessed and opened on May 1 in Lintou,
in the province of Shanxi.
Monastery of St. Augustine¹s Garden was opened by Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu, from
the diocese of Taiyuan; and Bishop Wu Jinwei, from Yuncheng, together with some
50 priests at a concelebrated a Mass in the courtyard of the sprawling building
with over 1,700 people who gathered for the occasion and four bands provided
inspiration behind the new venture, Sister Mary Niu Shufen, commented, "The
monastery is not my work, but God¹s work, as he looks after both the small and
the big work".
at least eight different dioceses gathered for what is being regarded as a
momentous occasion, as what is always regarded as an integral part of the
presence of the Church in any country, a house of contemplative prayer, has
eventually returned to China.
director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, together with the
local secretary of the Communist Party of China, both attended the opening Mass
and congratulated the fledgling contemplative community on its achievement.
90-year-old Bishop John Baptist Wang Jin, from the local diocese of Yutze, was
not able to attend the opening due to ill health, but he gratefully received an
apostolic blessing from Pope Francis and imparted his blessing to all those
taking part in the celebration.
construction of the modern-looking monastery was made possible through the
support of Cultural Exchange with China, a United Kingdom (UK)-based charity
which has as its specific aim the building of bridges between the Catholic
Churches of China and Britain.
said that she had always received great encouragement in her struggle to
establish the monastery with its tiny community from Bishop Wang, as he had
spent 20 of his years as a priest in prison, with 10 of them in solitary
confinement, and has a profound understanding of the value of contemplative
prayer as a result of his experience.
received her religious formation in an Augustinian monastery in England, which
became her springboard for initiating the project to found a contemplative
community in China.
extremely grateful for all the support I have received in China and internationally,"
she said, "in particular from the Cultural Exchange with China, as without its
help, this project would never have materialized".
fledgling community is made up of three people, Sister Niu, as well as Sister
Shi Kemin and Sister Wang Li, who were described as having the generosity of
spirit to respond to God¹s call to what may be regarded in today¹s world as a
rather unusual vocation.
Father Eamonn O'Brien, the director of the Cultural Exchange with China, said "The
opening of this monastery took eight years to complete. I remember standing on
the site when there was only earth beneath my feet and the sky above my head".
He added, "I
would like to thank all the supporters for providing financial and prayerful support
throughout this period". The Irish
missionary prayed that God will give his love to the future of the tiny community
and bless it with adequate vocations to keep it viable. He especially gave
thanks for the parents and the grandparents of the current generation, whom he
said lived their faith in difficult times and passed it onto to the people of
Church in China, the new monastery is a place of contemplative prayer and a
spiritual blessing, but for the government it is a home for the care of aged
people and a conference center. Its many arms and legs feature meeting rooms
and a gathering space or function hall, together with facilities for the care
of the aged, as well as a chapel, cloister and the structures typical of a
house of contemplative prayer.