Xi’an – A celebration lived under the sign of gratitude, asking Christ himself to renew the missionary impulse of the beginnings, to announce the Gospel in the vast horizon of China today : it is in this spirit that the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the first Chinese female congregation in the province of Shaanxi in mainland China, shared in the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of their religious institute. The commemorative celebration took place on September 16, on the eve of the liturgical memory of the stigmata of Saint Francis, which falls on September 17, coinciding with the date of the foundation. Seven bishops from Shaanxi province, 120 priests and more than a thousand faithful from various regions of the country, as well as representatives of nine women’s congregations working in mainland China participated in the solemn Eucharist, gathering around the Franciscan sisters of the Sacred Heart at this very happy and important moment for them.
On September 17, 1923, Eugenio Massi, OFM , Apostolic Vicar of Zhongjing , and the Spanish Franciscan missionary Francisco Ormazabal founded the first provincial congregation of women with the aim of entrusting the preaching of the Gospel to local consecrated women.
The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the foundation began on September 13 with a vigil dedicated to the Sacred Heart. On September 14 and 15, several meetings, courses and seminars were organized on the themes of mission and vocation promotion. During one of the meetings, a video clip made by the sisters entitled “Follow Me” was presented, which also contained wishes and congratulations from the bishops of the province. Mgr Antonio Dang Mingyan, bishop of the Diocese of Xi’an, presided over the Eucharist on September 16. In his homily, he reviewed the 100 years of missionary and charitable commitment of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, urging them to embrace with new fervor the work of announcing the Gospel of Salvation.
The Franciscan Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus devote their human and spiritual resources to pastoral service in parishes, orphanages, kindergartens, homes for AIDS patients and around forty small clinics scattered throughout the countryside where they support healthcare. A small printing press produces bulletins for parishes and subsidies for apostolic work, while a small art workshop they run produces sacred images and statues of saints and the Virgin Mary. To finance their initiatives, the sisters also produce liturgical vestments and all undergo training, in particular to obtain state approval which will allow them to teach the Chinese language, traditional medicine and painting in high schools.