China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2022/May
Countless blessings received in our mission in China
Countless blessings received in our mission in China
Sister Margaret Choo-foo of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Angels in Hong Kong has been involved in parish and faith-sharing activities here. As she will soon retire in Quebec, Canada, where her congregation was founded a century ago, she shares her reflection on her vocation and mission in China. – China Bridge
I am very grateful to the Triune God for all the blessings received since he called me to follow him.
I am the fourth of 12 siblings of a Chinese family on Mauritius, the island off the eastern coast of Africa. I was a member of the Our Lady of China Praesidium of the Legion of Mary then. I was touched by a movie: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness made in 1958, which was based on the true story of a British woman who became a missionary in China. I felt enthusiastic to go to China.
In 1954, Father Paul Wu Shy-chuen, spiritual director of the Wuchang Seminary in Hubei, China, came to Mauritius. He knew the Missionary Sisters of the Our Lady of the Angels [MNDA] at the seminary. He gave me the address of Sister Catherine de Sienne of Macau, who invited me to “come and see.” In January 1964, I left for Macau and was welcomed by the 20 sisters there. I was delighted to see them so joyful and simple. Their openness put me at ease and made me feel at home.
I started my formation as a postulant with Mistress Sister Germaine Brisson who was elected superior general in the general chapter in Canada. So, she brought me to Canada. We travelled for faour days by train. Wow, I saw the snow and was so excited in praising God for the beautiful nature, as I was born on an island. I arrived in Montreal and Lennoxville for the novitiate with seven other young girls of five different nationalities, cultures and education. We were happy to live like a family despite our differences.
After my first vows, I was sent to Tahiti, in the South Pacific, to work with the Chinese community and the Natural Family Centre in the city of Papeete, French Polynesia.
After 25 years, God finally answered my call and my China dream was realised. I was sent to Hong Kong in 1998, and started my China mission with other sisters and volunteers.
I visited Nanning, Guangxi; Guiyang and Anlong, in Guizhou; Guangzhou and Zhaoqing, in Guangdong; and Fuzhou, in Fujian; helping poor children, adults, orphans, mentally disadvantaged adults, elderly and lepers, responding to the call: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation” [Mark 16:15].
As our Mother Founder said: “Do little things with extraordinary love! And be happy with the sisters God has given you to live.” Like St. Paul, I have to go and accomplish the mission God entrusted me.
I am very grateful to God and the Sisters of the Our Lady of the Angels who helped me learn and grow in love. With a grateful heart, I am ready for my retirement to my homeland, treasuring forever in my heart the love I received all my life in thanksgiving for all the countless blessings received in our beautiful China Mission.
With heartfelt thanks,
Margaret Choo, MNDA
The MNDA founder, Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart [Florina Gervais, 1888 to 1979] was a Canadian from the Sherbrooke area of Quebec, and co-founder Mother Mary Gabriel [Chan Tsi Kwan, 1899 to 1974] was Chinese. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the aims were to spread the Good News in China.
The sisters gathered young Chinese girls, and prepared them by enriching them to become lay apostles among their own people. In 1926, Sister Mary Gabriel came to Hong Kong to open St. Clare’s School, and the first novitiate for Chinese in Macau.
The congregation is celebrating the 100 years of history [1922-2022], giving thanks and praise to God for this great gift of mission through the pastoral services and through the schools founded by the MNDA: St. Clare’s School in Hong Kong and Our Lady of Fatima Girls School in Macau.
We sisters always carry in our thoughts and prayers our Chinese brothers and sisters, and thank God for all who have given everything to the China mission and remind us of our origins.
History of the congregation
As early as 1902, Florina Gervais, questioned if one must be a man to be a missionary. To her great joy, she found out that women missionaries were going to China to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ and his message of love. She started to dream about the mission: “What I want is to become a missionary and take care of those who are most in need.”
When Gervais started her first mission in China, she was assigned to care for Chan Tsi Kwan, who had just turned 12-years-old, and to teach her French. Some months later, Chan was baptised. The Lord would lead them together along difficult and unknown paths. It was a time to search for God. It was the beginning of a long adventure between a Chinese girl and her teacher.
Later, the congregation was formed to do missionary work among Chinese girls. China has remained engraved in the sisters’ hearts as well as in the many writings of the community. “Becoming Chinese with the Chinese women” was the phrase of honour describing the founder’s vision of being a missionary.
The call was like St. Paul’s words: “to become all things to all, in a way that there will be no Greeks or slaves, only baptized Christians in spirit and in truth, all children of God.” [Galatians 3:25-28]. It was by becoming totally Chinese that she would accompany them to become real lay apostles for evangelisation among women.
Missions in China and worldwide
Arriving in China in 1922, in Guiyang, southwestern China, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Angels assisted the local Chinese sisters to develop their mission and service. The MNDA Sisters remained there until 1951. Two missions in Nanning and Hunan continued until 1953. In fact, 22 mission locations tell the history of MNDA in China.
In less than 25 years since the foundation, 90 Canadians and 14 Chinese sisters cared for the sick, the lepers and the orphans in 16 different places in China. The sisters taught English or Chinese but mostly gave religious education to Chinese virgins or young women consecrated to God.
In 1950s, the sisters moved to Hong Kong and Macau, while some returned to Canada. Divine Providence led them to the missions in Japan, Peru, Tahiti, Tanzania and Congo, and later, Brazil, Chile, Rwanda and the Philippines. In 1967, the MNDA received pontifical approval as an international congregation of Religious Women.
The sisters imitate Mary as their model—especially her spirit of listening to and pondering on the Word of God, and in longing, through contemplation, to loving and being with God. Our life is lived in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
Today the sisters evangelise by answering the needs of the local Churches, helping the poor and those who have never heard the message of Jesus Christ. This pushes them to be creative and keep in tune with the signs of the times.
Prayer for the Church in China
We pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in China, especially those who at this moment are suffering because of their faith. We ask the Lord’s blessings upon them. May he enkindle hope in their hearts. Strengthen their trust in you so that in the challenges they face they may be assured that you never abandon them. Amen.
References and photos: http://www.stclare.edu.hk/?page_id=2656; Soeurs Missionnaires de Notre Dame des Anges missionnaires-mnda.com