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Two Reflections for the Year of Mercy

Every May since 2000, Sister Celia Chua has traveled to the Sisters Formation Center in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China, to teach women religious sisters Catholic doctrine and devotions in their integral form, as well as other cultural and pastoral lessons to prepare them for pastoral work.

In this Year of Mercy, Sister Celia taught the introductory course on Mariology to more than 60 sisters ranging in age from 30 to 60. Among their activities was a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows. In order to deepen the experience of this pilgrimage, Sister Celia gave a short lesson on the meaning of pilgrimage and the preparation of the heart, body, and spirit for the experience. All wrote reflections on their transformational encounters with Mary on this pilgrimage. Sister Celia selected two to share.

First paper: A Personal Encounter of God’s Mercy: A Conversion and Transformation

Sister Lee started the pilgrimage with many fears, among them weather, environmental conditions, and health. In other words, she hesitated whether to go.

Finally she decided to join her classmates. On the pilgrimage site, she spent time walking and quietly praying the Stations of the Cross. In her contemplation at the Statue of Mary, she saw compassion in the face of God the Father, and she admitted that her hesitations and anxieties were rooted mostly in her relationships with her classmates. Summary/translation: “I do not know how to relate properly with my fellow pilgrims and the nature. I do not feel at ease in a crowd! But the Mercy of God through Mary has liberated me, and I feel that in time I can accept my own limits and those of others too. I began to open my heart and eyes to the beauty of nature and others and the marvelous graces of God’s Mercy.” Read full text in Chinese.

Second paper: ‘Lead Me Where I Do Not Want to Go’

Sister Wu wrote about her homesickness from the time she arrived at the Formation Center six months ago. Uncomfortable with the other sisters, she could not concentrate well on her studies. She shared that her only desire was for the time to pass quickly so that she could return home.

On the pilgrimage, she meditated on the Stations of the Cross and the attitudes of patience, letting go, and doing the will of the Father. Touched by consolation and comfort from Jesus and Mary, she felt God’s mercy, willing her to unite her heart and her body to live in the present moment and enjoy the presence of others. Once again, she experienced the warmth and friendship of the other students and became aware of a selfishness that was inhibiting her. This revelation, though difficult, brought inner joy. She prayed (translated), “Lord, hold my hands and lead me where I do not want to go; for me, there is no return.” Read full text in Chinese.

– Sister Celia Chua is a visiting faculty member at the International Marian Research Institute. She currently resides in Montreal, Canada.

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