Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Being Catholic in Beijing

Growing up in New Jersey, it seemed as if there were a Catholic church on every corner. Even during our years in North Carolina, we could make it from our house to Immaculate Conception in a matter of minutes. No matter how few Catholics there are in the South, there are (it goes without saying) way, way, way fewer Catholics here in Beijing. As a result, the simple act of just getting to Mass can be quite an adventure.

You see, in a city of 17 million, there is a grand total of something like five Catholic churches. And all of them are located in the central city. My guess is that these churches were established by westerners who, at various points in the past, had set up diplomatic or economic enclaves here in Beijing. No reason to spread cathedrals all over the place when the goal was to give yourself a visible place to worship near your quarters.

What this means for people like us (who live out at the edge of town) is that, to make it to Mass, we have to do the equivalent of a trip from, say, Frederick, MD to downtown Washington, DC...without the benefit of owning a car. The other day, we decided to take the bus to the subway, as a nun here told me about this one cathedral that is located right at a metro stop. We left with the intention of making it to the 4 pm Mass...and ended up attending the 6 pm service...at a different church altogether! (Have we mentioned that Beijing is a big city!?)

Not wanting to repeat this fiasco, we hailed a cab to take us home after Mass let out. (Memo to Father Mike and Father Greg...homilies here seem to last 20 minutes...) Unfortunately, the driver, who seemed to know exactly where we wanted to go when I gave him instructions, took us to the wrong location...apparently there's a place with a name similar to our apartment complex. (Mental note for the next time we end up somewhere that doesn't look familiar...) So it was no bargain getting home, either. For sure, we need to find a logistical solution that is sustainable over the long haul.



At 5:53 AM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

By the way, Barbara...everybody sings! In fact, they come at least 20 minutes early to go over the songs. If only...


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