We arrived here on 25 June 2012, and in that period of a couple of hours we left with great memories. Our fellow Catholics had never met us in person but it seemed like they were already connected to us in the spirit of love. This is a grace given when we all had a mass on 24 May, world day of prayer for China, as part of our preparation for this pilgrimage.
At this place in Chengde, having left Beijing, we were going to receive even more. The goodness of our Lord!
Someone commented that it was tough to be in such an area as Tiger Valley, but the parish priest was quick to add that the early missionaries had it hard, not the present lot of Catholics. He was thankful that the early missionaries had paved the way. He appreciated the providence of our Lord the Good Shepherd. In this fairly new Church of the Immaculate Mary, built in the area where Fr Verbist had himself ministered and later died of typhoid fever, we were pleasantly surprised to see the backdrop of the Good Shepherd being used. It was so refreshing. It was one of the first huge backdrops we saw, an image which is most apt. We follow Him who leads us to green pastures. We follow Him who truly loves us and lays down His life for us.
At this particular church, one of my friends shared that she burst into tears as she sensed her own calling as the beloved of the Lord. The words of the hymn ‘His sheep am I’ were singing in her heart. As for the rest of us, we were mostly moved to tears as we prayed the Lord’s Prayer with fellow Catholics. The tune used is the same as what we hear in Chinese masses here in our own country, and so for those of us who could sing together with the rest, it was especially meaningful.
Home coming. Yes, that is so true when the bond of love is so obviously felt. I realise that my words are totally inadequate to describe what we have all experienced. So many of us have said that this has been a trip of a life time and that what we have gained will remain with us for the rest of our lives. Praise God!