Interest in the Diaconate Growing in China
More than 60 representatives from different regions and dioceses in China met in Beijing and discussed the opportunities offered by the diaconate and the challenges that it brings for the Chinese Church
Representatives of the Diocesan Commission for the Permanent Diaconate in Hong Kong took part, between the 6th and the 8th of September in the 3rd Vocation Forum which took place in the House of the Catholic Church in Beijing. The event was organised by the National Seminary of the Catholic Church in China and by the Faith Institute for Cultural Studies. Among the participants were 5 bishops, 22 priests, deacons, representatives of religious orders and congregation and lay people.
The topic of the discussions was the development of the diaconate over the last few decades and its present and future challenges. One presented the situation of the Hong Kong deacons and explained the formation progress. Some deacons gave personal witnesses on their vocation to the diaconate.
Simon Li Pak Ho spoke about his work in the Hong Kong Diocesan Council. He was particularly happy about the interaction with priests, bishops and lay people. Simon Li hopes that the process of diaconal formation would begin very soon in the different Chinese dioceses. In some of China’s dioceses, this is already the case.
For Deacon Edwin Ng Wing Hung, who represented the Hong Kong deacons at various IDC conferences, it was the first time taking part in a conference held in Mainland China. “As a foreigner, I was both very nervous and very curious”, said Deacon Edwin. To his great surprise, he met some deacons who already exercise their ministry in Mainland China, despite not having had any systematic formation. He was impressed both by their spiritual witness and by their concrete service. Some couples from various regions of China were moved by the witnesses of the Hong Kong deacons and their wives. It is possible that these couples start their own journey towards the diaconate quite soon.
Cecilia Ng Wai Ling, Deacon Edwin’s wife, had three months to learn the language of the conference, Putonghua (Standard Mandarin Chinese). She spoke about her experience as a deacon’s wife and was impressed by the atmosphere of the meeting.
Deacon Louis Wong Chin To drew the attention to the different situation of the Church in Hong Kong and Mainland China respectively. “These differences have to be taken into account when it comes to the development and form of the diaconate”, Louis Wong said.
Vicar General Dominic Chan Chi Ming, Episcopal Delegate for the Diaconate in Hong Kong, stressed the importance of this first joint meeting. Representatives of more than 20 regions of the country, as well as all the seven seminaries participating have shown interest in the permanent diaconate. For Chan, good formation opportunities are particularly important. “One would misrepresent the intention of the 2nd Vatican Council, if one considered the deacon a mere replacement for lacking priests”, the Vicar General stated.
Towards the end of the event, the discussion turned to the international development of the diaconate. One presented the relationships with the IDC as well as those with the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD) from the U.S.A.