I was baptized as a Catholic when I was a baby. My grandfather was a devout Catholic and he led our entire family to embrace the Catholic faith. Growing up as a Catholic did not necessary mean that I was strong in my faith then. It was during the time of the Cultural Revolution when I was only 6 years old that my young faith in God slowly took root. During those tumultuous times, all religious activities were conducted behind closed doors. Churches were shut and many believers in my hometown had to pray secretly at home.
That was what my family did as we gathered for our prayer time daily: my grandfather would lead the prayer time, but not before ensuring that our doors are shut tight and locked. Even then, my grandfather would often continue to host parish workers, including priests, nuns, and preachers at our place. As our house was situated conspicuously in the village, it would be rather easy to “catch” us when we were receiving our parish guests. Therefore, my grandfather planted many big trees across our front courtyard so that our “dense forest” would be a safe “refuge” for the parish workers. Sometimes, a simple mass would be held at our place attended by some close neighbors and relatives whenever we had a priest staying with us.
There was no religious freedom during those times. But it was during such circumstances that my young faith in the Lord grew as I had been deeply touched by the devotion of these faithful. My respect for them grew and I was intensely attracted to their devoted spirit, especially after the following incident:
One day, a neighbor who was a fellow believer heard that a visiting priest was at our home conducting a mass. He ran frantically to our place to look for this priest. One of his family members had just passed away and he would like the priest to hold a funeral service for the deceased. Holding a religious funeral service was prohibited during those times and the priest would be prosecuted. Nevertheless, the priest was deeply moved by the sincerity of this believer and decided to help him at the risk of his own life. Halfway through the funeral service, a number of fierce-looking men barged into the house and dragged the priest away.
The believers present were shocked and frightened. They ran to our place quickly and informed my grandfather. Together with a few young men, my grandfather went out to look for the priest. But they could not find him. Just when we were getting very worried, the priest came back to our house, bruised and beaten up. My grandparents cried when they saw his badly wounded body. I was very shaken myself. Instead of being upset with his tormentors, the priest said this to comfort us: “the wounds that I bore were nothing compared to those on Jesus. We should bear witness for Him.” After what he said, I felt more at peace for he helped me to understand my faith better. And my faith was greatly strengthened.
When religious freedom was restored to our country, many priests and nuns continued to visit our home, now more openly. One day, one of the priests asked me if I would like to become a nun. Without hesitation, I replied with a determined “I do”. It was a choice I made for my life without a second thought. With great joy and anticipation, I entered the convent upon my graduation. The wonderful relationship we shared among the sisters, just like a family, made me feel like we were already in heaven. My faith grew and matured tremendously under such great living environment.
My journey of faith and service as a Catholic nun was not without many ups and downs. However, whenever I faced difficulties and struggles in my work at the parish, the Lord would beckon me to Him. Once, through another sister, the Lord reminded me of these verses in Philippians 2:6-7a “Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave ….” (New Jerusalem Bible).
After reading these verses, I then recalled the words of the old priest who was beaten up for the Lord, and I was at peace again.
Edited by Ms. Pamela Choo
Testimony translation by Ms. Chiong Min Lee
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership