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Wednesday, 21 August 2019 13:39

Sharing with our Chapter Companion

Written by Shelby Miller & Mary Williams
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Shelby Miller & Mary Williams – NE Florida Chapter

Father Bob Carleton, our Northeast Florida Affiliate Chapter Companion, met with us via Skype on May 9th. We had requested that he speak to us about the Church in China. Fr. Bob has been on the board of the US–China Catholic Association for many years and lived in China for three years teaching English. The Association’s website includes a video with a brief history of the Catholic Church in China and vividly describes the deep and continuing faith of the people. China was one of the first mission fields for Maryknoll priests, dating back to 1911.

Our group gathered around the dining room table in the home of Mary and Bryan Williams; we used Skype to see and hear Fr. Bob. He spoke to us from his room at the Maryknoll retirement home in Los Altos, CA. During his time teaching English in China, Fr. Bob taught a class on, “Who was Jesus Christ?” He did this as students might continue their studies or work in the West and should know about Christianity. However, he was not in China to make converts. We could tell that Fr. Bob remembered his students and his time in China with much fondness as he told us about his ongoing correspondence with some of his students from that time.

On a more somber note, while talking about the current situation in China, he spoke about the registered and unregistered churches—registered means an officially recognized by the government, and unregistered, not officially approved and underground. When Fr. Bob was in China he attended Mass at a registered church, which celebrated the same liturgy and sacraments as the unregistered church.

Pope Francis desires and has been working to bring both groups together, as evidenced by his validating bishops who had been named by the government. It is a sad commentary, however, that recently the government has torn down churches on flimsy excuses, taken down crosses from atop churches, forbidden children under 18 to go to church, and required teachers to keep statistics on students who are Christian. One of our Affiliates, Jean Fields, commented after viewing a video on a church being destroyed: “Very sad situation in China for sure! We need to keep praying to Our Lady to intercede.”

Our Affiliate group was also happy to learn of Maryknoll’s program which sponsors men and women to come to the United States to study for the religious life. This program is a tremendous help to China in training priests and sisters to serve in their home country. Approximately 30 to 40 students are currently in the US with this program.

Although four members of our group know Fr. Bob from his time in Jacksonville when our group was just beginning, other members of the group are still getting to know him through our Skype contacts. This companion program is still new for us, but it appears to be a way that we can gain more knowledge of the workings of Maryknoll and, especially, develop a connection with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Fr. Bob’s experience and “long view” offer our group a new and welcome perspective.

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