Members of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Coquitlam, B.C., hold their creations for the Lunar New Year celebration, held Feb. 5. Courtesy of RCAV Chinese Ministry

Chinese new year is off to optimistic start

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • February 8, 2019

Vancouver – As billions of people around the world prepared to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 5, a pastor in Surrey, B.C., was also taking the opportunity to celebrate another significant milestone for the local Chinese community.

Fr. Paul Chu, pastor of Precious Blood Parish, said the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s ministry to Chinese Catholics is reaching more people, expanding across B.C.’s Lower Mainland, and thriving.

“It’s good that, as a Church, we can respond to the needs of the people. They are taken care of,” said Chu, head of Chinese Ministry.

There are more than 500,000 Chinese Canadians overall in the Vancouver area, second only to Toronto in the country.

He said many immigrants who left China for the Lower Mainland may feel isolated, struggle with culture shock or have a hard time participating fully in Mass and the other sacraments with native English speakers.

The archdiocese has historically found ways to reach them, including by offering Masses in Cantonese and/or Mandarin at St. Francis Xavier (since 1933), St. Theresa’s (1977), Corpus Christi (1994), Canadian Martyrs (1995) and Our Lady of Fatima (2007).

Since the archdiocese officially launched a Chinese ministry in 2016, St. John the Apostle Parish has also jumped on board, offering one Sunday Mass per week in Cantonese.

In the Toronto archdiocese, there are four parishes offering Mass in Mandarin or Cantonese, including parishes in Mississauga and Markham. 

In the Vancouver archdiocese, most of the Masses are held in the city, which makes it difficult for Chinese Catholics outside the city to stay connected. “Some of them are baptized in their local parish, but because of the language they can’t participate fully in activities,” said Chu.

He had an idea and in 2018 launched the Fraser Valley Chinese Catholic Community. Now from Coquitlam to Delta to Surrey, Chinese Catholics can access a network of Bible studies and social events.

“We give them another option to grow,” said Chu.

So far, the FVCCC has about 34 regular members who meet at private homes for Bible studies or catechism lessons led by a member of the community. Sometimes they will ask a priest to give a particular talk, but usually the groups are led by laypeople, at someone’s home, in the language and cultural context these faithful Catholics feel comfortable in.

Chu is thrilled with the progress but admits there is a lot of work to do in the next year — the Year of the Pig in the Chinese lunar calendar. “Coquitlam to White Rock is still a long way to travel,” he said.

The groups also welcome both Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, meaning if someone “only knows one dialect, they might not be fully participating in the whole evening.” Offering Cantonese or Mandarin-only groups in every city, however, would require many more volunteers.

Meanwhile, longstanding Chinese Catholic parishes are still going strong in their efforts. Most notably, St. Francis Xavier Church celebrated its 85th anniversary last year with a gala dinner and hundreds of guests.

Missionaries founded the parish in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood in 1933, and welcomed the community’s first Chinese pastor in 1962. 

The current pastor, Fr. Joseph Ly, CSJB, called the community a “centre of evangelization” in which an average of 100 new Catholics have been baptized every year over the last five years.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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