Following a visit in 2006 from Fr Karl Stähli and Br. Laurenz Schelbert, both SMB, to the first mission area of the Bethlehem Mission Society in the northern Chinese Diocese of Qiqihar in the province of Heilongjiang, both were very intensely confronted with the needs of the Church in China: shortcomings in the training and the possibilities for further training for Chinese pastoral workers.
During the communist Cultural Revolution (1965-1976), all religions were strictly forbidden in China and any form of education of priests was impossible. It was only in the 1980s that the first seminaries for priests opened again. In the underground Church, seminarians lived in many places together with a priest who prepared them as well as he could for the priesthood. It goes without saying that such an education was very incomplete. Anything else was hardly possible.
In the face of this reality, the Taiwan Region of the Bethlehem Missionaries decided to conduct a project for the further training of male and female pastoral workers for the Chinese Church.,
Course leader Rita Chen:
It was a stroke of luck that the theologian, Rita Chen, an ideal person, could be found for the position of Course Leader. She worked for twenty years at the Pastoral Institute in Taipei (in the advancement of the local Church through the development of basic Christian communities and above all the training of church leaders). She did her theological studies at the Furen University in Taipei.
As Frau Chen Baumann wished to work further in the field of religious adult and lay leadership training, she undertook further studies in Pastoral Theology in Innsbruck from 2003-2007 and graduated with a Master in Religion Pedagogics and a Licentiate in Communicative Theology.
The creation of a training team
With the financial and spiritual support of the Taiwan Region of the SMB as the body responsible, the following team was put together: Leader of the project: Br. Laurenz Schelbert, Course leader: Rita Chen Baumann and Peter Baumann (part-time worker). In the last seven years this team has held over 30 courses in Communicative Theology for priests, nuns and seminarians at various places (Immensee, Heiligkreuz in Canton Lucerne, Singapore and Taipei). Nine of these courses were held in Switzerland for priests and nuns studying in Europe with the theme “Experiencing Christ in the community” In these seminars, community was not only reflected upon, but was also practised.
Realization und continuation of the project:
1. Foundation course
The above-mentioned courses are foundation courses in Communicative Theology that should continue to be held and spread as far as possible. But as we are the only team that holds these courses and Frau Rita Chen is 40% engaged in the pastoral care of Chinese immigrants in Switzerland, we have to limit these courses to three or four a year. We already have ten requests for courses in China.
2. Course leader courses
We therefore plan courses from summer 2015 to train Course Leaders. That means we will choose participants from the foundation courses to train as Course Leaders so that they can be used as training teams for courses in China
As about a quarter of the participants of our Swiss courses are presently still situated in Europe, we will hold the first Course Leader training in 2015 in Immensee. A course will follow in autumn in Singapore for priests and nuns who will travel from China.
3. The training of teams in various dioceses in China
The trained Course Leaders should then form teams in the various regions and dioceses of China in order to conduct courses in Communicative Theology within their own as well as in other dioceses. At the beginning it is our intention, where possible, to accompany the courses in China of those who have absolved these further training courses.
4. The compiling of teaching material for the Course Leader course
Frau Rita Chen is working on modules for use in the Course Leader course by which the would-be Course Leaders can practise the methods of Communicative Theology.
Financing the project
As the Taiwan Region of the SMB has a special relationship with the first mission area in China, it has undertaken the responsibility for this project. Various charitable organisations such as Church in Need, the Jurt Foundation, Missio Aachen and above all the Region Taiwan of the SMB, but also private persons have financially supported this project. The total costs of a course, according to where it is held, come to around 15,000 to 18,000 Swiss Francs.
If you wish to support this project, we will be very thankful. God reward you.
IBAN: CH 70 0900 0000 6007 3366 0
Write on the deposit slip:
“Formation Chinese pastoral agents”