Tuesday, March 15, 2016
The Comboni Missionaries set up, fifteen years ago, a structure called “Fen Xiang”, born out of the need to coordinate some activities and strategies, especially in the fields of Formation and Human Promotion in China, in collaboration with the local church. Two characters form the term Fen Xiang (Sharing): “Fen”, which means to divide or to share, and “Xiang”, the character for joy and good experience. Joined together indicate sharing, both feelings and experiences, joys and sufferings, as well as material goods. In sharing, both sides can give and receive, originating a reciprocal flow.
The main aim of “Fen Xiang” is the collaboration with the church in China by assisting, and backing initiatives and projects in the line of formation of church leaders: sisters, seminarians, catechists and priests. It has also expanded to support and get involved in projects in the field of social work.
The formation of pastoral agents of the church in Mainland China is, at present, a key issue that challenges the suffering church. The reasons for this are rooted both in the recent past and in the present conditions in the Chinese society, mainly the persecution, control and interference of the atheist and communist government that continually hinders the journey of the church. Added to this, are the deep transformation the Chinese society has undergone since the economic reforms, fuelled by the late Deng Xiaoping, at the beginning of the eighties. These continuous changes have affected people’s lives, minds and pockets. Christians, sisters and priests are not excluded from the effect of this drastic and quick transformation. How to face these challenges and how to guide Christians to face these new transformations are two important questions to ponder carefully.
A proper training of church personnel will undoubtedly help the church to counteract the many challenges she has to face from within herself: there exists a generation gap between old bishops and young priests, not always freed of tensions; while some church personnel have the chance to go to study abroad, most of them receive a rather poor training in their seminaries, mainly because they lack qualified personnel and proper materials. The formation of sisters is a bigger challenge. There are vocations to religious life in China but, generally speaking, proper formation is lacking. There are few trained personnel in formation and most sisters have to rely on outdated methods. Seminarians, too, find it difficult to accomplish their full theological curriculum and often their diocesan bishops cannot cope with the financial burdens of the tuition fees. Libraries in some seminaries are full of empty shelves.
As a missionary institute, and in line with the missionary spirit of Comboni, we could not close our eyes to such reality. The main aim of “Fen Xiang” is the collaboration with the church in China by assisting, and backing initiatives and projects in the line of formation of church leaders: sisters, seminarians, catechists and priests. It has also expanded to support and get involved in projects in the field of social work. In exchange, the Comboni Missionaries and people at large will benefit from the testimonies of faith and courage of the Christians in mainland.
Through “Fen Xiang” some local churches from outside China have come to have a greater knowledge of the church in China and some people and groups are involved, with their financial support to improve the formation pastoral agents in China. A quarterly news-letter is sent to all collaborators and sympathisers of “Fen Xiang”, so that they may be informed about the main events of the church in China in the field of formation and the projects implemented by “Fen Xiang”.