ASIA/CHINA – Deepening and living the charism on the synodal journey: the first indigenous women’s religious congregation in China celebrates its 150th anniversary

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ASIA/CHINA – Deepening and living the charism on the synodal journey: the first indigenous women’s religious congregation in China celebrates its 150th anniversary

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) – Retracing history, deepening and reviving the charism of the foundress by committing to the synodal way: these are the objectives of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the first indigenous women’s religious congregation in China , the Congregation of Saint Joseph of the Archdiocese of Beijing. Following in the footsteps of their founder, Msgr. Louis-Gabriel Delaplace, CM, then Archbishop of Beijing, since 1872 the sisters have continued their intense pastoral and missionary commitment, living community life, despite the pandemic and its consequences on the life of the Church. In fact, the sisters renewed their religious vows with the virtual participation of friends and relatives only.
The lay faithful have always been their first apostolic commitment, which is why they periodically promote an “Opening Day” to welcome the laity and also non-Christians. They experience this occasion in four stages: presentation of the history and life of the congregation; guided tour; seminar or simple exchange meeting; prayer in the chapel. Each time, they can accommodate more than a hundred people, not just Christians. In certain circumstances, they also invite the sisters of the national seminary of Beijing, who come from all over the country, to share their vocation and their experience of community life. After 30 years of closure caused by the Cultural Revolution, the diocesan religious congregation of Beijing dedicated to Saint Joseph reopened in 1986, with six young people from the suburbs of Beijing. Today, the congregation celebrates 150 years of foundation with great achievements in the pastoral and evangelization field.
Currently, the 49 nuns work in various dioceses, parishes, schools, clinics and in a retirement home. Applicants must possess the religious, cultural, psychological and moral aptitudes necessary to follow the high standards of community life. For their formation, courses are offered in Sacred Scripture, Catechism, Church History, Fundamental Theology, Canon Law, Liturgy, Spirituality, Philosophy and Sacred Music. There are also courses in physics, Chinese literature, Chinese moral tradition, social sciences and foreign language. The congregation’s motto is taken from 1 Cor 9.19 (“I have made myself a servant of all to gain the greatest number”) and Luke 17.10 (“When you have done everything that was commanded you , say: We are useless servants. We have done what we had to do”).
The Congregation was founded by Mgr. Louis-Gabriel Delaplace, CM, Bishop of Beijing, in 1872. According to historical sources, during a time of meditation and prayer, Bishop Delaplace was inspired by Saint Joseph to found a Chinese religious congregation. The proposal was discussed at the Vatican Council of 1870. After two years of preparation, with the help of the Canossian Sisters, the Congregation of St. Joseph was founded in Beijing in 1872, whose nuns came exclusively from Beijing and its surroundings. Today, there are nuns from various Chinese provinces. According to the founder, the main purpose of the Congregation is service (ecclesial and social) and mission. In 1941, the Congregation reformed its structure, changed its statutes and its religious habit, and added the profession of the vow of poverty (before the religious only professed the vows of obedience and chastity). The date of religious profession has always been linked to the feast of Saint Joseph. The activity of the sisters is exercised mainly in the fields of health and education, but they are always available for the requests and needs of the diocese. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 5/2/2022)


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