Sunday, June 8, 2008

I just knew there had to be

a Catholic community in Kunming because of the size of the city, its French heritage and that Catholicism is a recognized religion. Many Chinese cities have Catholic cathedrals. Thanks to a fellow blogger and living-in-China friend, I was able to locate Sacred Heart Church. I passed it many times without noticing it throughout the year on Beijing Lu (the equivalent of Woodward Avenue)!! Now with only two weeks remaining in Kunming, I finally was able to attend Mass! G., C. and E. couldn't get it together to be ready for the (only) 9:00 service, so I went solo.

I love the distinctive Ming Era style:

Those thirteen English words on the bottom of the sign was the only English found:

My vantage point before the start of Mass. I took the photos shown here in a hurry. This Caucasian face was creating quite a stir just by being there and I certainly didn't want any additional attention!

The choir led by two old nuns, three postulants and an out of tune piano:

A closer look at the outside:

Of course, everything was in Chinese, but that made little difference. I do wish I could've understood the sermon though. It was wonderful to experience all the standard familiarities of the Mass again through the five senses:
  • sight: statues, priest vestments, altar, etc.
  • hearing: the order of the mass, hymms (the words "hallelujah" and "amen" are universal)
  • touch: the hardness of the pews, softness of the kneelers, and the coolness of the holy water
  • taste: Communion host
  • smell: the burning of incense
The service began with the nuns and choir members filing in. The priest (in his forties) and four adult servers then entered from the side. When it was time for the sign of peace, everyone held their hands in prayer form and bowed to each other. No words were exchanged. The church was packed. (Why am I surprised? - this is China!) I would guess there were about 400-500 attending. Almost everyone went to communion and the priest had no lay assistants. At the end of Mass, the priest exited during the final hymm to the side entrance, then appeared seconds later without his vestments to greet the congregation outside. He was wearing khaki pants, a golf shirt and sipping a coke! The service ended at 10:30 (that extremely long communion line). It was so nice to be in a Catholic Church again. The local (bland) Fellowship service is ok and the kids like the Sunday school. But on a Sunday, I much rather be with fellow Catholics (even though I don't have the language skills) than with the English speaking hand-waving evangelical crowd!

We're having a busy few days. Today, we went to the Yunnan Nationalities Musem and it was a holiday - the Dragonboat Festival. Tomorrow, the Olympic torch relay comes to Kunming. Also the final week of classes start. And for the past few weeks, I've been invloved with the CCTV English speaking contest. More posts to follow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I can so relate to everything you said about being in a Catholic Church. I had that experience in Quebec many years ago. I came away with an incredible appreciation of our Catholic Faith and a better understanding of its Universality!! Hope to see you once you are back in Jackson. M.