Pastoral Care for Chinese in U.S. Is Posing Challenges

Harvest Is Swelling, But the Laborers Are Few

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WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 7, 2003 ( Many of the Chinese migrating to the United States are those fleeing their government’s family-limitation programs, says a U.S. bishops’ agency.

The bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services says there are more than 2 million Chinese in America, and the «number increases very quickly each year.»

«Before, most of the Chinese immigrants came from Taiwan or Hong Kong,» the office said in a recent statement. «Now, most of the immigrants come from China, especially Fujian Province. A large number of these are Catholics fleeing China’s forced-sterilization and one-child policies.»

«The Catholic population of Chinese in America is estimated at 340,000, but the true figure is believed to be more because many Chinese Catholics are not registered,» the office explained. «People do not have the practice of registering in parishes in China. As a result, the Chinese often fail to register here.»

«When it comes time for a marriage or baptism, American parishes often refuse to service the people who are not registered and some then would seek out other Christian churches,» the office said. «Also, because of years of persecution and turmoil in China, baptismal records cannot be attained. Normally, any Chinese who professes to be a baptized Catholic should be believed.»

There are only about 35 Chinese priests in America, seven seminarians, 70 religious sisters, 13 religious brothers, and seven deacons.

«Many seminarians from China arrive here to prepare for the priesthood,» the migration office said. «They have special needs and problems. Most do not know English well and need special assistance with English as a second language. They also suffer a culture shock especially by the great materialism of American society and the tremendous freedom available.

«American attitudes are radically different from the Chinese. Another difficulty is Western spirituality. It is quite unlike Chinese spirituality, making it difficult for a seminarian to find a suitable director. This retards his spiritual growth and further isolates him. Seminarians from China, like American seminarians, also want to do pastoral work, but often American Chinese Catholics do not trust the seminarian’s orthodoxy, due to his connection with the Chinese Patriotic Church.»

The U.S. bishops’ agency added: «The conflict between the so-called Chinese Patriotic Church and underground Church in China is very painful for everyone. Within China, people seem to understand the need for reconciliation. Outside China, people should pray and encourage this reconciliation and leave the process for the Vatican and Chinese people to settle.»

«Seminarians in China need theology and philosophy textbooks,» the office continued. «Many American seminaries and parishes have been generous to donate such books and assist with financial support.»

«Although the number of Chinese priests in America is not adequate to serve all our Chinese communities, there is good news concerning a seminary of San Lorenzo Mission Institute, which is located in Manila, Philippines. His Eminence Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, archbishop of Manila, said that in this seminary they prepare young seminarians to be priests so that they can send them to the mission for the needs of the Chinese apostolate, not only in the Philippines but also throughout the world. Cardinal Sin is willing to help the United States and Canada. Several newly ordained priests will be arriving in America.»

The first Chinese bishop in the United States, Ignatius Chung Wang, was ordained to the episcopal ranks on Jan. 30. He is currently the auxiliary bishop of San Francisco.

Parishes which serve Chinese will usually have the liturgy in Cantonese, Mandarin and, more recently, Fujian. Religious books, tapes and videos in Chinese can be obtained from:

The Catholic Center
16/F Grand Building
15-18 Connaught Road, Central
Hong Kong

Further materials and information can be obtained from:

Father Joseph Chiang
Chinese Apostolate
Holy Rosary Church
344 6th Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302


Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the 2nd Pastoral and Mission Congress of Chinese Catholics Overseas closed on Friday. The congress, which attracted more than 120 representatives from 30 communities, reflected on the theme «Confucianism, Prelude to the Gospel.»

One organizer of the congress was Franciscan Father Paolo Pang, head of the Office for the Promotion of and Apostolate for Overseas Chinese Catholic Communities, opened by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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