But dialogue does not work that fast in China, so I had to start “to learn to hope for the improbable.” When we started our service to people affected by leprosy in China 30 years ago, conditions were terrible. Even the leprosy patients could not understand why the sisters who work with us wanted to come to the most desolated places in China to stay and live with them. “When are you going to leave?” was the common question they asked of those heroic sisters in those days. The same happened when we started to serve HIV/AIDS patients 15 years ago, or women at risk five years ago. Hope has been one of the most important words in our recent congregations and one of the biggest gifts I have received in my mission in China.
Lao Tse wrote that the best rulers are those whom the people hardly know exist. “The best ruler stays in the background, and his voice is rarely heard.” When he accomplishes his tasks the people declare: “We did it by ourselves.” A core element in our Jesuit way of proceeding is the building of an apostolic body for the mission. The mission which does not belong to us – is not entrusted to individuals, but to the whole apostolic body. The Jesuit way here coincides with the Chinese way, or Dao (道), “the Way of the Sage King.” This is very important when mutual trust needs to be built in a Chinese context where everything changes very fast. Ricci Social Services’ 30 years of service in China is evidence that it is the continuity of a whole community and not of individual persons that makes a mission progress.
To learn to dialogue with the different, to hope for the improbable, and to become useless. I am still far away from graduation. As we say in China, the longer you live, the more you have to learn.
[Adapted from an article from “Jesuits – The Society of Jesus in the world – 2020”, by Fernando Azpiroz SJ, also found here.]
Our partners need your support more than ever, donate to support our COVID 19 response here.