The history and the present of the Chinese Mission of the Augustinian Recollect Family are full of challenges and successes, tenderness and pain, dedication and dangers, joyful community life, and extreme solitude in prison. To celebrate it today makes a lot of sense: to sow hope.
After yearning for over three centuries to go on a Mission in China without success, on April 4, 1924, the first Augustinian Recollect missionary community arrived in Kweiteh, today Shangqiu, in the Province of Henan.
Mariano Gazpio, Mariano Alegria, Luis Arribas, Sabino Elizondo, and Pedro Zunzarren joined Francisco Javier Ochoa in Shangqiu, who had been there for a month and a half preparing the ground for his brothers. This group began to write this now centenary history, which we commemorate with gratitude to God.
This commemoration is a tribute to the twenty-six Spanish Augustinian Recollects sent throughout the first 30 years of that mission. However, foreign religious were expelled from China in 1952, after suffering, especially during the last years, the lack of freedom to exercise any work.
The celebration of this centenary also recognizes the foundresses of the Augustinian Recollect Missionary Sisters; they left the cloistered life to respond to the mission’s call and establish the feminine religious life, which is still present today.
Finally, it is proper and necessary to honor all the Chinese Recollects and nuns who suffered persecution, imprisonment, exile, and forced labor after 1952. Five of them and one seminarian even died as a result of this repression.
Today, ideological pressure and control are no longer cruel but continuous. Religious life is not officially recognized, and the pastoral life of Augustinian Recollect religious and missionaries has legal and personal conditioning factors.
Although the most brilliant pages of all these heroes are written and will continue to be written in his book by the Lord of Life, the Augustinian Recollect Family has organized a centenary year that will open next December 5 and will close during the World Mission Campaign 2024, on October 20 of next year.
We want to inform you about the commemorative program below. It aims to make the chosen motto worthwhile, hoping to continue missionary work in this enormous and challenging Asian country.
It is composed of the silhouette of the old cathedral of Shangqiu, built by the Spanish religious in the first stage of the mission, on a circle that symbolizes the sun that illuminates the Mission, Christ.
It is accompanied by the number 100 (the last zero is, precisely, the sun), the arc of dates of the centenary (1924-2024), and the current name of the mission prefecture, Shangqiu.
Although it can be seen in negative or positive versions, in the colored materials, the institutional green of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the titular of the mission since its birth, predominates.
With the expression “Sowers of Hope,” we refer to the core of the evangelization carried out by the Augustinian Recollect Family in China in the past, present, and future: to bring hope to those who do not know Jesus Christ.
In the official poster of the centenary, the central motif is a photograph of 1938 with the missionaries who were in the mission then and their bishop, Francisco Javier Ochoa. Besides the Spanish religious, there is also the presence of Jose Shan, the first Chinese Augustinian Recollect, and two other professed religious, Nicholas Shi and Joseph Wang, who became bishops, respectively, of Shangqiu and Hezé at the end of the 20th century.
The religious are framed in a wheat field already in season and a bluish and clear horizon that contrasts with the dark attire of the protagonists of the photo. It recalls the evangelical phrase: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” The wheat in season alludes to the many fruits of the Recollect mission in China.
It is brief and straightforward, mixing thanksgiving with petition, and intended for personal and community prayer throughout the centenary. In addition, it will be distributed in holy cards on the front side, with significant scenes of the mission.
Hymn of the Centenary
The lyrics are by the Augustinian Recollect Rafael Mediavilla, and the music is by the organist and composer Samuel Rubio. It will have a place in the principal liturgical celebrations or of other nature, such as gatherings, spiritual exercises, and prayer vigils. In this case, the lyrics recall the history of the mission.
Its main refrain alludes to the Centenary motto: “Let the sowing of hope be your service, your passion.”
It will be distributed in a series of five bookmarks that also have on the front some significant images of the evangelizing task and its meaning: one of the bishops, one of the temples, the Holy Infancy, the Chinese People of God, and the five religious martyrs.
In addition to the opening and closing Masses, it is suggested that on the 4th of each month, if the liturgical norms allow it, the prayer form of the “Evangelization of the Peoples” be celebrated in the Recollect houses and ministries.
In turn, religious communities and Secular Fraternities will receive a special prayer for Lauds or Vespers within the Liturgy of the Hours.
Marked by persecution and terrible challenges such as wars and violence, during the centenary, a missionary Way of the Cross for Lent will associate prayer, the spiritual experience of the Passion of Christ, and the sufferings of the People of God and the missionaries in China.
A missionary vigil will also be distributed to the religious in the ministries and pastoral agents to remember, in a unique way, the centenary of the mission, to pray for the missions, and to learn from the example and work of the Augustinian Recollect Family in China.
Each week, there will be a publication related to the centenary on the official website of the titular Province of the Mission, agustinosrecoletos.org. They will have a great variety of contents: biographies of personalities, explanations of concrete moments in the history of the mission, and exposition of the principal successes of the religious, be they spiritual or material, of the social works.
In addition, on the official pages of the Province on Facebook, X (Twitter), and Instagram, there will be a series of publications with the same aesthetic aspect on the centenary frequently. They will help us better understand this centenary history and the present reality of the Church and the Augustinian Recollects in China.
During the centenary, we hope to add to the collection “Burning Lamp” of the Augustinus Publishing House the biographies of Nicholas She and Joseph Wang, in a book dedicated to both bishops and the other book on Mariano Alegria, one of the Spanish missionaries in China.
At the end of the Centenary Year, an extraordinary Congress will be held, whose papers will also be printed, and just at its beginning, the book “Correspondencia” of Venerable Mariano Gazpio will be publicly presented.
Eleven panels, one meter wide and two meters high, help better understand the historical and current reality of the Mission of the Augustinian Recollects in China. According to the possibilities of each community and ministry of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, they will be exhibited in an itinerant way for a reasonable time in easily accessible places.
In addition to the panels, visitors can take away an explanatory booklet. They will receive institutional gifts, such as caps, pens, stamps, and bookmarks, to remember and promote their centenary experience in their environment.
The history and present of the Mission in Shangqiu will be presented in video format starting on Consecrated Life Day 2024 (February 2), accessible on the YouTube Channel of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, on its social networks and also in meetings and group events organized by the ministries.
It will have a duration of about 40 minutes so that it can also be used in classrooms or catechesis classrooms, in Fraternity or JAR meetings, etc.
An exhibition of significant Chinese materials will be set up in the convent of Marcilla (Navarra, Spain) before the end of the centenary. In due time the publicity will be made so those interested can visit it.
Many collaborators will make this program possible, but we most desire to awaken or enliven the interest and missionary spirit, that there be no lack of prayer for peace and freedom in China, and that the Holy Spirit endows the missionaries with parrhesia. May the Good Shepherd endow the missionaries with pastoral charity, and may dialogue and harmony reign among them.