06/25/2022, 09.41
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Claire and Joseph, from Taipei, on the challenges of family in Asia

by Beatrice Guarrera

The couple are part of the delegation invited to represent Taiwan. Married for 28 years, two children, they are involved in projects to support nascent or struggling families in China, Malaysia, the Philippines. The issue of blended families and the path aimed at dialogue and formation. Engagement with priests in formation for pastoral care.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - They arrived from Taipei as a couple, to tell their experience on their pastoral accompaniment of spouses: Clare Jiayann Yeh and Joseph Teyu Chou are part of the delegation invited to represent Taiwan at the World Meeting of Families, underway at the Vatican. Together with two other newlyweds from Indonesia, they are the only Asian speakers at the sessions organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life for this important event dedicated to families that ends tomorrow.

Married for 28 years and with two children over 20 years old now adults, Clare and Joseph have been involved for years in projects to support newborn or struggling families in China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Chinese communities living in the United States.

"I was appointed by the pope as a consultant for the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and that's why they thought of Joseph and I when it came to choosing," Clare explains, "who to have speak on the topic of continuing formation for spouses. I was born into a non-Christian family and it wasn't until I was 20 years old that I became a Catholic." It was right there in the church that Joseph noticed her, "I come from a Catholic family and I was 24 when we first met. Claire was new to the church and that's how we met. Then we started dating, got married and had two children. I learned so much about church doctrine and theology just from Claire."

Today Clare is in fact director of the Marriage and Family Ministry Center of the China Regional Bishops' Conference. In her education, she counts studies in Melbourne at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, which later led her to teach moral and pastoral theology at St. Robert Bellarmine's Fu-Jen Faculty of Theology. Claire is an expert in marriage preparation for engaged couples and counseling families in difficulty, experience she has brought into her book, "Guidelines on the Pastoral Care of Marriage and the Family in Light of Amoris Laetitia." Flanking and supporting her in every service to the Church has always been her husband Joseph, a university professor of economics/finance and former business executive.

"At the World Meeting of Families," Claire says, "we shared our experience and also the differences of pastoral care of the family in different countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan or other dioceses in Washington or New York. The common challenge in Asia is that many couples do not have deep roots in the Catholic tradition and need constant accompaniment from the Church, to support their Christian family in a non-Christian culture." Claire knows what she is talking about, as her own family is of the Ikuantao religion. Also known as "I Kuan Tao" and "Yi Guan Dao," it is a religion that has millions of followers and originated in China, although it is still banned there today.  In Taiwan, however, it was legalized in 1987 and has since become the third most popular faith, after Taoism and Buddhism.

"When I was little, my parents enrolled me in a Christian preschool because they believed," he explains, "that it was the best. And when I later became Catholic, they always encouraged me in my path, even though they are not Christians. For example, sometimes they would say to me, "It's Sunday, how come you are home? You should go to church." My family pushed me to do what was useful for me and helped me personally. That's why I always share my personal experience with couples where one spouse is not a Christian."

Meeting many families on a daily basis, Claire knows the most diverse stories of integration, such as those of children who attend the parish on Sundays despite having parents of other religions. However, family issues are not always easy to resolve: "In premarital classes," Claire points out, "this is the challenge we encounter: if one is Catholic and the other is not, there might be different difficulties. Maybe the family of the Catholic husband could become much stronger and ask the wife to become Catholic. Or, if the husband is not a Christian, he could force his wife to stop going to church. This is the challenge that the Church of Asia experiences. With our experience, we would like to help couples dialogue and then allow their children to go to Church. Therefore, in our groups we always want couples to share their experience-that way couples help each other. They are not left alone to confront and argue."

The Taiwanese delegation, consisting of Claire and Joseph, along with the bishop of the diocese, a priest and three other couples, thus brought the experience of accompanying the Christian family in a non-Christian context. "The theme of this world meeting," he continued, "is a call to the holiness of families: I expect that every culture and nation can make its contribution, to bring us to this holiness. And we personally would like to continue to do more, to help more to address the challenges of families."

In addition to families, Claire and Joseph also often meet with many priests to support them in training for pastoral care. "As lay people we need a greater mission in pastoral care, to form spouses and priests. We need," she concludes, "synodality with other couples, in collaboration with the Church and the bishops, to be able to help families do their best for themselves and their children.

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”