1993-12-14 00:00:00

"To foster better evangelization in my diocese of Wuzhou, my mission is to achieve self-support and develop religious vocations," says the newly ordained first Chinese bishop of Wuzhou diocese.

On Dec. 3, China-appointed Bishop Benedict Cai Xiufeng, 77, filled the vacant episcopate last occupied by Maryknoll Bishop Frederic A. Donaghy who was imprisoned in the 1950s and expelled from China in 1955. He died in 1988.

Wuzhou diocese in Guangxi autonomous region was erected and entrusted to the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (Maryknoll Fathers) in 1946. Wuzhou city is 1,920 kilometers southwest of Beijing.

In 1950, then-Father Cai was appointed diocesan administrator of Wuzhou when Bishop Donaghy was jailed. Later, Father Cai was also jailed for political reasons for almost 20 years, until 1978.

"I never expected to be the bishop," he said, "but as our Church is growing, I have to shoulder responsibility to strive for a better development."

His episcopal position may empower him to reclaim Church properties from those who occupy them, and "to dispatch priests to care for the new and old Catholics in various parts of the diocese," he told UCA News Dec. 2.

For decades, many Catholics were neglected and stopped practicing their religion, Bishop Cai said.

Since the Chinese government implemented the religious policy in 1979, he has been able to preach again. Many Catholics who had abandoned their faith asked to rejoin the Church and learn catechism again, the bishop noted.

A Hong Kong Catholic familiar with the Wuzhou Church said it had only a dozen Catholics when he first returned to the diocese in the late 1970s.

Gradually Catholicism was passed on to their non-Catholic relatives and friends, and sometimes "miracles" also bring along many new converts, he said.

Wuzhou diocese now has about 5,000 Catholics in Wuzhou city and scattered through the counties of Cenxi, Guiping, Pingnan and Yulin. Bishop Cai said he hopes to increase the Catholic population to 20,000, as it was in 1949.

To expand evangelization, more priests, nuns and lay catechists are needed, he said. He often explains the vocation of priesthood to Catholic parents, encouraging them to dedicate their sons to God´s work.

Three young priests now serve the diocese. Two seminarians are studying at the regional seminary in Wuchang, Hebei province, and four minor seminarians are receiving religious formation from Bishop Cai at Wuzhou cathedral.

Parish catechetical classes are taught by Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus whose congregation was re-established in 1984. They now have 14 sisters, four novices and 17 aspirants.

"Though many Catholic girls want to become nuns, the convent is too small for more and there are no funds to reconstruct the building," Bishop Cai said.

To secure long-term income, the diocese sought investment by a Hong Kong Catholic to build a hostel on Church land in Wuzhou city. Their agreement assures the Church a fixed profit when the business starts in 1994.

Once the financial situation improves, the bishop plans to improve formation of seminarians and nuns, and to hire more lay catechists in parishes.

Wuzhou is near the border of Guangxi and Guangdong provinces but transportation is difficult. Bishop Cai´s episcopal ordination was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong.

China-appointed Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide of Jinan and Zhoucun, head of the government-approved bishops´ conference, presided at the ceremony.

The co-ordainers were China-appointed Bishops Peter Li Panshi of Jiangmen, James Lin Bingliang of Guangzhou and Anthony Zhong Quanzhang of Meizhou.

Dec. 3 not only marked the new prelate´s episcopal ordination but also the 45th anniversary of his ordination to priesthood.

Born on Jan. 24, 1917, in Pingnan, Bishop Cai received priestly formation at seminaries in Jiangmen, Guiyang and Hong Kong in 1932-48. After becoming a priest, he returned to Guangxi to preach in Guigang and to teach in Pingnan.


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