China Church Solidarity

Columban missionary Fr Eamonn O’Brien appeals for financial support for a new monastery of Augustinian nuns which opened in China in recent years and which is also running a home for the elderly.

I have been visiting China since 1979 and working there for twenty years. In 2014, we were able to open an active contemplative monastery for Augustinian Sisters. I unhesitatingly call this a wonder and a miracle in the context of Communist China.

Some of the congregation at the official opening of the monastery.

The foundation of this monastery is the result of the prayers and financial support of many, including supporters in Britain and Ireland. But in a special way, it can be linked to the extraordinary faith of two people: the Mother Foundress, Sr Mary, who with her family lived through all the oppression of the ‘50s and ‘60s in China as well as the positive response of an elderly bishop despite his suffering during the same period.

I once asked that bishop how it was possible for him to say yes to sponsoring this monastery in his diocese amid the difficulties for Christians in China.

His reply was profound: “When Sr Mary told me her story and the dream of her contemplative vocation, my twenty years in prison, ten of these in solitary confinement, flashed to memory, painful as they were. But in a moment, I saw the point of it all. It was a grace that allowed me to recognise and understand her call to initiate a contemplative monastery, as that was the only option available to me while in prison – contemplation.”

The completed monastery of the Augustinian Sisters in China.

The monastery was formally opened in 2014. Since then, the Sisters have offered pastoral workers and people of the area an opportunity for prayer, reflection, and silence before God, as well as opening up a space for people to engage with the creation that God has gifted us.

However, permission to open the monastery was given by the government with a significant condition, namely, that a nursing home for the elderly would be attached to the monastery. This was acceptable to the Sisters who saw it as constituting the ‘active’ part of their mission.

During my visit to the monastery in January 2019, we prayed and talked about this challenge and in order to preempt any undue harassment from the government, we decided to proceed with the building of the home for the elderly.

Columban priest Fr Eamonn O’Brien with some of the SIsters.

As well as fulfilling the government requirement for the opening of the monastery, there is a growing need for this service in modern day China, especially for poorer people. We expect the cost to be about US$1.9m.

The Catholics of China have to date have collected $500,000 and now I’m seeking support outside of China to raise another $1,000,000.

I am grateful for your generosity so us over the past twenty years to strengthen the Church in China in its mission of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The first profession at the monastery.

If you could support the contemplative monastery with your prayers, that would be greatly appreciated.

If you wish to support with a donation, please make a cheque payable to China Church Solidarity and return to Fr Eamonn O’Brien at the postal address below or use PayPal in our website:

China Church Solidarity (CCS), St Joseph’s, Watford Way, Hendon NW4 4TY, London, UK. Tel: 0044 020 8202 2555.