The efforts of a group of Catholic housewives in central China to help people in need as a Lenten exercise has now become an example for others in the country. “To live out the Lenten spirit of love and service, we undertook to do charitable work to help people regardless of religion,” said Su Huimin who put together a team of seven other laywomen in Shaanxi province who together went about helping poor farmers irrigate their fields. Su and her team help elderly and poor farmers irrigate their lands when the local Xiaoyang water pumping station began releasing water for the annual spring irrigation just before the start of Lent on March 9. They helped those who do not have sufficient manpower or means to irrigate their fields by shoveling channels from water from the reservoir to the wheat fields. This is because after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, most young and middle-aged villagers left their rural homes to eke out a living in the cities, she explained. Wheat fields in Shaanxi have suffered from a serious drought since last winter as rainfall reduced by about 10 percent. To ensure a good summer harvest, farmers have to irrigate their lands on successive nights and days when the water is released, which usually lasts for only a week. Her group also began planting some 80 white poplars at the main ditch of the pumping station and at the edges of the fields. White poplars, the most common tree in northern China’s rural area, serve as greenbelts and sand-break from the Loess Plateau. So far they helped 19 households irrigate a total area of 200 mu (about 13 hectares) of land, approximately one-fifth of the area covered by the pumping station. Zhong Zongfa, the pumping station manager was moved to see the laywomen’s selfless service. “They braved the cold weather to ensure the water supply. The love of the Catholics is so great,” he said. Catholics in other parts of China also followed suit upon learning of what Su and her group did. Some laypeople in Wenzhou diocese in coastal Zhejiang province and in Tangshan diocese in northern Hebei province began a drive among Catholics to donate winter and summer clothes for poor people in Xiaoyang. “We donate the clothes to show the loving spirit of Jesus. We also sing hymns while distributing the clothes,” said Hou Keyan, a coordinator for the donation drive in Fufeng. “I am happy to get clothes for the spring season. The Catholic Church has been so thoughtful,” said an elderly man who lives alone. Hou and his team also collect scrap pieces of cloth from factories to make quilts and then send them to a local center for people with disabilities. While more clothes are on the way from Wenzhou, Hou said they plan to give the next batch to poor people in the remote mountainous area of Baoji city of Fengxiang diocese. Hou, who has been there once with a catechist, recalled that people there live a very hard life. Hou, like Su, hopes that their “small effort” they set in motion during Lent would motivate other Catholics to also do charity work and that it wouldn't just be a gesture limited to Lent but a way of life of living their Catholic faith.
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