February 10, 2012
read about the life of Father Tan Tiande in a book
entitled, "the Red Book of Chinese Martyrs" by
Father Tiande was born in Shunde, in the province
of Guangdong, China, in the year 1916. He was fortunate to have been born to
a family that had been Catholic for many generations. He lost his father as
a young boy and credits his strong faith to his mother and his parish
priest, Father Chang Quing Qingqi. According to the written account he was a
handful growing up, wanting to run outside all day and was unable to sit
still for any length of time.
Despite his misbehavior, he remembers his mother
never disciplining harshly and only was strict when it came to his "duties
and reverence to God." He remembered distinctly his mother gathering
together the family for prayer whenever one of the family members traveled.
He entered the seminary in Hong Kong as a boy and after his philosophy and
theology studies was ordained a priest in the year 1941.
After only a few years of ministering to the
faithful, he was arrested by the communists and sent to a re-educational
labor camp in northern China, the Chinese equivalent of Siberia. One of his
many jobs was to bury the dead. This he frequently did because countless
persons died from hunger and exposure to the harsh elements, for no other
reason than being a Christian. In order to survive, he frequently ate rotten
meat and tree bark.
During one stretch of his imprisonment, he was
confined in a cell too small to recline. His guard was so harsh that he
needed permission even to clear his throat. Many such prisoners broke under
such horrible conditions. He remembers the only thing that kept him going
was his faith in Jesus and his knowledge that his sufferings had meaning and
value joined to the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the cross.
After more than 30 years he was released and
returned to his home cathedral parish where he spent most of his time
catechizing parishioners. It is striking that he was quoted to say that
seeing the lack of charity between the faithful was more painful to him than
any of the tortures he experienced during his decades long imprisonment.
Recently Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the retired
Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia, died at the age of 88. As a priest in
1971 he started the Catholic Migration and Refugee office in the Diocese of
Brooklyn, one of the first in the country. He was often quoted to say, "We
don’t help people because they are Catholic, we help people because
we are Catholic." This is one of the hallmarks of being a Catholic. This is
also true for us at Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska. I
frequently tell people that we serve individuals and families regardless of
their religion, race or ethnicity. We do our best to help everyone because
of the gospel mandate of Jesus Christ.
This is why Father Tan Tiande loved and forgave his persecutors, and why
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua started the refugee department as a young priest
and why we serve the many individual families that come to us. We try to see
and love the face of Jesus in them as they see and love the face of Jesus in
them. Thank you all for your love of Jesus in the poor and needy for without
you, there would not be a CSS. Please remember that you and your intentions
remain in our prayers!
Father Christopher Kubat
Catholic Social Services