January 2020

From 2020-01-18 to 2020-01-25

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today, we live with divisions even as we yearn for the unity promised and commissioned by Christ. The long and often painful history of Christianity has sundered our churches for theological, liturgical, and political reasons. Many Christians now strive to heal these divisions, yet honour our diversity, through ecumenical dialogue, common action, and relationship-building. They also come together to pray for unity, joining Christ in his prayer to the Father.

The worldwide celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is both the seed and and the fruit of this striving for ‘unity in diversity’. This time of shared prayer, reflection, and fellowship invites Christians of different traditions to deepen our relationships and to live and witness together throughout the year.

From 2020-01-10 to 2020-02-20



Soon Communism came in and turned the whole country upside down. Shanghai suddenly fell into a black hole of darkness and fear. Life under such a regime was stripped of all freedom and individuality. The massive attack on the Catholic Church began the era of persecution and martyrdom. People were fleeing to Hong Kong including my parents who hoped to start a new life for us there. However, after 1951 the Communists sealed all exits; my two brothers and I were left behind. Gone was my safe haven! I was then six, my oldest brother, the care-giver, was only sixteen and my other brother was ten. Despite our misery, God was there to care for us through our generous and loving relatives who, notwithstanding their misery, sheltered us and provided for our existential needs.

The Church being under surveillance, faith practices became really challenging and dangerous. I witnessed the invincible faith of my people whose courage to walk in the footsteps of Christ led them to the concentration camps and prisons. It made me understand, early in life, that without faith, life is meaningless but with faith, no one can strip away your inner peace, freedom, hope and joy even in the midst of persecution! Catholics lived fully the Beatitudes. My brothers and I witnessed the arrest of our dear Bishop, the late Cardinal Kung. That was a symbolic moment that marked me for life. It deepened my understanding of what it means to follow Christ and to carry his cross. Perhaps this was the beginning of my desire to consecrate my life to Christ.


God has a way of making the impossible, possible. It was September 1957, with the help of our relatives we grabbed an unusual opportunity and made our exodus to Hong Kong. Who were the first people to welcome us? They were the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception! In retrospect, I understand this was not an accidental encounter; ahead of time, God was preparing the way for me to be a part of the prophetic dream of Venerable Delia. Ten years later, His Will was manifested—I joyfully said YES to Him and accepted to work in his vineyard with the MIC Sisters!


In 1981, I returned to Shanghai for the first time. I was so deeply saddened to see my people living in a greater state of misery. Shanghai was in a dilapidated state. Most of the Churches had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution or were being used as markets and camps. My parish, St. Peter’s Church, had become a museum. It made me want to cry, because the people were walking in darkness with no hope in their heart. All my cousins who had suffered from the Cultural Revolution returned home physically sick, uneducated and unprepared to enter into the work field.

I visited many Catholics who had suffered long term imprisonment and were then released. What touched me most was that no one complained about their suffering, everyone was serene and at peace. Blessed, indeed, are the poor in spirit, the humble of heart and the persecuted for Christ’s sake, the Kingdom of God is in their heart! God never left his people despite years of desolation! I walked away with mixed feelings—joy and pain.


Like a Phoenix rising from its ashes, Shanghai has risen to a new reality! Oct. 2007, fifty years after my departure from Shanghai, I returned for a second visit. Within a period of twenty six years, Shanghai has climbed to the top of the world with its incredible new glory. Again, China has welcomed the West to assist in its rebirth. Globalization has somehow reached China, especially Shanghai. It has raised the standard of living and has given hope to the people. My relatives are no longer suffering; most of them have a reasonably comfortable standard of living. Churches are being restored even if they are still under restrictions. The number of believers is increasing each year, priesthood and religious vocations are on the rise. When I visited my parish, St. Peter’s Church, I was surprised to attend an English Mass where westerners and Filipinos join the local Chinese in celebrating the Eucharist. Yesterday’s memories came like flashbacks. The seeds of faith, sown yesterday, are still bearing fruits through those who have survived persecution; they continue to pass on the Holy Fire of God’s Love to other thirsty hearts! How long will this last? The future will tell!


We could say that Quebec and Shanghai are twin dioceses. Both were founded in the same year by French missionaries and celebrated their 400th Anniversary of Foundation in 2008. No wonder I felt at home when I joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception; it seemed there was already a sense of belonging to the ‘déjà vu’!

Cecilia Hong, m.i.c.