(The title was chosen by my co-volunteers who experienced the same mind-blowing talk with me)
While we were completing a group reflection in the cozy common room of one of the cottages that we were staying in, the front doors opened suddenly to let in a small Chinese woman. After greeting us, she blurted out “Who’s Catholic here?” We had heard before that she was in search of the Catholics in the ASB crew, but we didn’t make an attempt to track her down in the residence. She beckoned those of us who had raised our hands, and we followed her to her private apartment. Not knowing what to expect, the woman directed us to photos on her wall as we cautiously entered her front room. Our confusion instantly turned into admiration as we noticed the woman standing with Mother Theresa in one photo, and the remainder of her photos capturing moments with Bl. John Paul II, including celebrating Mass with him, posing next to him, and reaching out to him from the crowd at St. Peter’s Square.
Before we had a chance to fully process what we just saw, the woman invited us to sit, and we spent the next half hour or so in pure awe of the woman’s stories. She proceeded to share with us her journey within the Catholic Church. She had come from a Buddhist background, and converted when she was about 31. While serving the Church in China, she had been placed under house arrest and was suspected to be a spy for the Holy See. She shared with us the details and photos of her 13 month pilgrimage that involved traveling to Guadalupe (she had a great devotion to the patroness of the America’s), Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem. She climbed Mt. Sinai, traversed the desert in which Jesus had fasted for 40 days and nights, walked through Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and visited the chapels/cathedrals built over Jesus’ birthplace and other main points during His life. In her journey she also met religious in China who had been persecuted for their faith and the Archbishop of Jerusalem. She also did a lot of work with the Little Srs. in China and here in Baltimore. When asked what she did for a living that allowed her to travel so much, she told us she was essentially a “professional volunteer.” What perfectly topped this amazing witness was when she casually mentioned that she’s good friends with Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Those of us Catholic girls who are familiar and involved within the Boston Archdiocese just lost it.
The woman concluded her witness by sharing with us the prayer card pictured above. She asked us to pray for conversion in China, so that Catholics may practice in peace in the Communist nation.
This surprise talk by a little Chinese woman was touching and impressive beyond description. Us Catholic girls could barely hold in our excitement as we returned to our room for the night. The bond that holds us together within the Catholic Church is truly beautiful and offers a deep connection that no other community could ever develop. The experience reminded me how much I appreciate this connection and how the love for the Catholic Church traverses cultures and nations.