By Dave Jolivet, Anchor Editor
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Admittedly nervous before his very first trip to China and Vietnam this past spring, Bishop Connolly principal Christopher Myron told the agency that invited him, EduBoston, “The only way I’ll go is if I can go to church to attend Mass on Easter Sunday,” since the Asian trek was to begin on Good Friday. Myron said the agency said that wouldn’t be a problem, and off he went on what he called, “a very Spiritual experience,” in a region not noted for its tolerance of the Catholic religion.
While the Connolly principal spent the journey with EduBoston, an agency that specializes in pairing up international students with host schools and families in the United States. While Myron was traveling through China and Vietnam, his son John was staying in Beijing with Yufeng (Lucas) Wu, a student who has been staying with the Myrons for the past few years while he attended Bishop Connolly High School.
“John and Lucas have become great friends, and Lucas is part of our family,” said Myron. “So Lucas brought John to spend the spring break with him and his family in Beijing while I worked.”
Myron said it was Lucas and his family who arranged for him to attend Easter Mass at Wangfujing Catholic Church, whose patron saint is St. Joseph, in Beijing. “When I received my itinerary from the agency, it did not include time for Easter Mass,” continued Myron. “I told them that was part of the deal, and they made arrangements for it to happen. As a matter of fact everyone with the agency on the trip, most of whom weren’t Catholic, came to Mass as well.
“I was told that if you weren’t Chinese you wouldn’t be allowed in the church for Mass, but we were and it was beautiful.”
Myron said many “barriers were broken down” during the trip. “The Holy Spirit is alive and well in China and Vietnam,” he continued.
Myron said he also attended Mass at a church in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, saying he witnessed the Mass and the Vietnamese people praying the Rosary. “There’s a strong Marian influence in Vietnam.
“The Liturgies are exactly the same in China and Vietnam as they are in the U.S., and the people there have a great hunger for Christ,” he told The Anchor. “Even the people who don’t know Christ, have a yearning for something, and Christ is Who can fill that void, in time.”
“Connolly has been involved with international students for about six years now. We now have eight students from China, and one each from the United Kingdom, Brazil an Vietnam.”
Myron said what he observed most in both Asian countries was the importance of family. “While the Chinese currently are only allowed one child, family is still very important to them; the mother, father, child and grandparents,” he said. “In Vietnam there isn’t that child limit, and the family is equally as important there.”
Myron did meet the family of one of the two Vietnamese students enrolled last year at Connolly.
Myron said that working with the Chinese and Vietnamese and other peoples, is “a great way to evangelize. Hosting these students is uniquely tied to our school mission. I couldn’t have planned it any better.”
The program, Myron said, is open to all students, but when they come to Connolly they take theology classes and are exposed to the Catholic faith. “Many students see what goes on here and go back home and they tell the people there about it. They see the truth and they share it.”
“I admit I was nervous going to a different country, especially during Holy Week, a time I usually spend with my family,” Myron said. “It was a challenge to go, especially since the Malaysian jet liner went missing around that time. But I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It was a beautiful Spiritual journey, and I’m forever changed by it.
“I spent Good Friday in the air and I prayed up in the sky, and it was an Easter Sunday I’ll never forget.”
He added that the commitment from the student to the school and the school to the student is important, and the host families and schools take it very seriously, and things have worked out very well over the last six years.
“We hope to branch out even further in the future,” added Myron, admitting the world is not as large as it seems thanks to the joining of international students and U.S. schools and the families involved.
“There’s so much to learn on both sides of the relationship,” Myron added. “God has this beautiful plan, and this trip helped me realize my role in that plan. I have to be open to whomever He sends.”