Xichang Catholic Church
The Xichang Cathedral was built one hundred years ago. The last Bishop here died in 1999. French missionares from the Paris Association for Overseas Missions built the church in Xichang as they built many other churches throughout Sichuan. Eight priests reside at the cathedral. All are under 40. Father Yang told me he graduated from the catholic seminary near Chengdu in Pi County. He also got a year of training at a seminary in Beijing. A parishioner told me that he hopes that negotations now underway between China and the Vatican will succeed soon. Mass is celebrated every day at 7 AM in the Vatican II rite in Chinese with prayers for Pope Benedict XVI.
Catholic Diocese of Xichang – A Brief Introduction
The Catholic faith came to Xichang region (then called Ningyuan Fu) in the early 19th century. In 1903, the foreign priest Guang Ruoyu of the Xufu diocese came from Yibin to the Ailang district of Huili and to Xichang to preach. Since the Qing Dynasty had conferred upon Guang Ruoyu a high award, the wuping dingdai, where ever he went to preach, he was welcomed by local governments and people and his missionary work went well and the numbers of converts to Catholicism grew steadily. In 1904, he bought the Xiao Family Temple and in 1908 transformed the Li Family Temple. In 1910, Xichang was separated from the Yibin Diocese and the Xichang Diocese was established. The Xichang Diocese was administered from 1910 – 1924 by the Paris Foreign Missions Society with Guang Ruoyu as its first bishop. During 1910 – 1916 many new churches and monasteries were built throughout the region. In 1915 Bishop Guang Ruoyu was transferred to Guangdong to do religious work there.
The second bishop was Pu Enyou, an interim substitute bishop (1918 – 1925) established the Ningyuan Fu diocese, built a Latin School, a convent, an elementary and middle school (the Anna School), a monastery for spiritual contemplation and penance. In 19265 Pu Enyou died.
The third bishop, Bao Mingyan, (French, 1927) headed the diocese for twenty years. The diocese expanded considerably and preaching was done and churches built in all parts of the diocese. Social services carried out by the diocese including operating a hospital and providing free medicine, helping the poor and building home for elderly impoverished people who were without support.
Statistics for the Ningyuan Diocese in 1948 just before Liberation: Over thirty churches, 32 Chinese and foreign priests ( 19 Chinese, 13 foreign), 34 nuns (23 Chinese, 11 foreign) and 10,968 Catholics.
After the Third Session of the Eleventh Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the state implemented a policy of allowing normal religious activities.
The fourth bishop of the Xichang Diocese was Xie Chaogang (1991 – 1999) from Huili in Sichuan Province. He was the first bishop chosen in the Xichang Diocese after Liberation and the first bishop chosen and consecrated [by the diocese]. During the term of Bishop Xie, he worked vigorously to implemented the religious policy of the Party Committee and Government. Since the restoration of the convent in 1993, over ninety nuns have been trained for dioceses in the southwest. Now 25 nuns reside in the convent.
Currently the Xichang Diocese does not have a bishop so Father Lei Jiapei was chosen (1999 – present) to lead all aspects of the work of the diocese.
The Xichang Diocese now covers 22 cities and counties in Liangshan Prefecture and Panzhihua including about 35,000 Catholics, 13 new and old churches, seven religious activity points, nine priests, eight monks and 25 nuns.
Currently, the Xichang Diocese has established these social services organizations: The Huili Catholics Sophia Nursery School, the Dechang County Catholic Ming’ai Nursery School, the Qiangzhou Catholic Tian’ai Nursery School , making a contribution to society.