In the Diocese of Hualian there are still three active priests and a brother of our community. There were hardly any training courses for the local pastors in the last decade. Now the Bethlehem missionaries invited them to a two-week pastoral workshop, together with religious sisters who work in the parishes. Most of these priests care for up to 7 or 8 parishes or affiliated churches and therefore are overloaded with work. The sisters are also highly involved in youth ministry, social work and care for the elderly.
This ten-day course in communicative theology was a big challenge for them. They should have been free for those two weeks. Since they could return to their parish within two hours, many of them felt obliged – even during the workshop – to take on the services that the faithful expected of them.
Despite these difficulties, their hearts opened like flowers in the sunshine. They learned to listen to each other, to exchange ideas, to accept each other and even to admire and encourage each other. They were dealing seriously with the situation of their diocese and their own role there.
During the seminar, they learned to trust each other, to step aside and to give space to the Spirit. They learned to see the community with God’s eyes and their own vocation in this community.
All participants consider themselves privileged to experience this course in communicative theology and hope that these courses will be continued so that many priests, sisters and lay leaders have an opportunity for this kind of formation.
A uniqueness of this course was that unforeseen events could be incorporated, e.g. the death of two mothers of the St. Martha Sisters. In Jialan, a Paiwan village, we participated in the wake of the village community. The Presbyterians began with the hymn “Amazing Grace” and a Scripture reading. After our Rosary in classical Chinese, Auxiliary Bishop Tseng gave a good introduction into the Marian devotion of Catholics.
The following evening we celebrated Eucharist in the Amis town Guangfu in the family house of the sister’s late mother. Both evenings were concluded with a common meal, donated by neighbors.