Communicative Theology for Chinese pastoral trainers, Singapore, 2015:
„Encounter Christ in the Community“
Many of the Chinese sisters, priests and seminarians, who took part in one of our seminars for Communicative Theology in Switzerland and have returned to China after completing their studies, feel overwhelmed by the challenges facing them. Most have multiple roles simultaneously. Then there are the psychological pressures both from within and outside the church. Often it is difficult to implement what they learned in their studies and to find an appropriate method of co-operation with their fellow brothers and sisters. The risk is great that they are physically and mentally tired and confused after a few years.
Method and purpose of the seminar
Meeting the needs of the participants, refreshing and deepening the spirit, attitude and method of communicative theology. The participants shared how they, as a team, in the current environment in China can build a Christian community and how to become holistic companions.
Feedback from participants
All the participants confirmed that thanks to Theme-Centered-Interaction, they were able to have a frank exchange of views and build a healthy self-confidence and a sincere relationship of trust with each other in the ten-day seminar and can now perform their pastoral service in an interactive way. They have also realized that the Church of China has a hope and a future only through a collaboration of priests, sisters and laity.
The participants repeatedly expressed their joy and gratitude that they had the opportunity to participate in this seminar three to five years after their return to China. Here they had the opportunity to discuss difficulties in their work, to find understanding and support, and to find a common positive approach to deal with their situation.
Hope: Concrete work and future mission
At the end of the workshop all of the participants formed an association: <中国同舟团体> (China in the same boat) for agents of pastoral care in China which has as its goal mutual, sincere exchanges in the Lord, community spirit and promotion of unity. The participants then chose a seven-member core team to be responsible for the promotion of future cooperation and interaction in their evangelization and pastoral services. All participants committed themselves to start with themselves and take a sincere, open attitude, take the initiative in the dioceses where they work to promote with other priests and sisters small Christian groups that cultivate the spirit they have experienced at our workshop.
In China there are many priests and sisters, who, like our participants, studied abroad and after their return virtually seal themselves off, for whatever reason, and no longer maintain contact with one another. Some are sick (physically and / or psychologically). Our participants now consider the contact with these colleagues as their first priority. They want to encourage them to attend seminars like Encounter Christ in the community and so in the common faith and in fraternal love experience again the communion in Christ and His calling and thereby rekindle the missionary, pastoral zeal in them.
The organizers also recommend the priests, sisters and seminarians studying overseas (including Taiwan), to form such a small group of Christians In the same boat during their studies and simultaneously remain in contact with the group In the same boat in China. Immediately after their return they are encouraged to participate in the activities of this group. So they can avoid loneliness and cooperate with group members in the same diocese.
Such workshops could be carried out in China and would be much cheaper. But restrictions would have to be taken into account, e.g. everything would happen under the eyes of the local government, so that a carefree exchange between participants of the official and the underground Church could not be guaranteed. Thus, if common events were not possible, the success of such workshops would be problematic.
Although this practical workshop in Singapore took great human and material resources to complete, it was worth the extra material and personal expenses. Because here priests and sisters, both of the official as well as the underground Church were meeting and exchanging in great freedom and shared their common concerns. This was a deep experience for them and an impressive testimony that unity is possible. In fact, during our course a priest of the underground Church mentioned that he was now ready to accept a priest of the official Church who had studied in Germany into his community so that a united parish could be created.
The twelve priests and seven sisters were very touched by the hospitality, the service, the care and support of fellow Christians of Singapore, who took over the entire logistics for this first instructors’ course. Their concrete loving services inspired them deeply. They now want to bring these loving services back to China and put into their own field of action there.
One of the participants after his return has taken over the leadership of two parishes in the Guangzhou diocese. In his reflections, we see how the workshop has changed his pastoral attitude. He writes:
“Hello, Sister Rita, since our meeting in Singapore two months have already passed. I miss you all very much! On 14 October 2015 I took over in Tianhe the leadership of Lourdes Parish and in Shamian of St. Anthony parish, a challenging pilgrimage. Although a lot of activities bring with it that I am very busy, I feel very happy and enriched.
That’s what I swore at the assumption of office, I want to share it with you, Sister Rita:
Dear Bishops, Dear priests, dear sisters and faithful and meritorious citizens outside our community. Thanks to the Almighty, merciful, triune God, thanks to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, thanks to all who support me in silence and thank you brothers and sisters in the Lord, who have come to this celebration.
I have got many congratulations from home and abroad, with the assurance of prayer for our parish. They congratulate me on my position as “Prince” and “Lord” of the parish. But I know that I am not Prince or Lord. I am only a humble servant in the vineyard of the Lord who, if he has done all the Lord instructed him to do, can only say: “I am only a useless servant who has done what is proper. Today I say honestly to each one of you brothers and sisters: The parish is not mine, it is the heavenly Father’s, the Father’s house. The reason I came to this community is that I may accompany you all, to continue building with you on this Father’s house. I do not want to “manage” you, but accompany you, be with you a little bit of the way, on a long pilgrimage, perhaps all the way to the Father in the eternal home.
Anyway, I will do my best to treat all brothers and sisters in the community equally, to take you all to my heart. I will recommend you every day, every Sunday to the Father of Mercy, I will pray every day, every Sunday for you and celebrate the Holy Eucharist. In this Father’s house your needs are my needs, your concerns are my concerns, your grief my grief, your hope my hope, your desires are my wishes, your future, my future, your successes my successes, your failures also my failures, your joy is my joy, your pain my pain, your suffering my grief, your happiness my happiness!”
 In Rome such an association, “同舟” (in the same boat) was founded after our 2008 workshop, which has since been open for all Chinese priests, sisters and seminarians studying in Rome, attracting many participants from the various colleges.