Cultural Exchange with China (CEC ), a charity based in Hendon, north London, has helped to finance and support the opening of the first contemplative monastery in China since 1949. On May 1st, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the monastery of St Augustine was opened in Lintou, in the Shan Xi Province. The monastery and associated nursing home will be known as St Augustine's Garden and will follow the rule of St Augustine. It will also be a catechetical and retreat centre for local Christians, a place of reflection for all and a nursing home for the elderly and infirm.
Supporters of the charity, which has the specific aim to ‘build bridges between the Catholic Churches of China and of Britain’, were at the forefront of financing the monastery’s construction and have supported the project from its outset.
St Augustine's Garden was opened by Bishop Paul Meng (Diocese of Taiyuan) during a Mass concelebrated by Bishop Wu Jin Wei (Diocese of Yun Cheng) and approximately 50 priests, with over 1,700 in attendance. Both the local county's Head of the Government Religious Affairs Bureau and the Secretary of the Communist Party in the local village attended the Mass and gave speeches of support during the reception.
The Director of CEC, Fr Eamonn O'Brien SSC, gave thanks to Bishop John Baptist Wang Jin, the local bishop who was in hospital: "From the very beginning, Bishop Wang Jin was able to see the value of this project and support it. The opening of the monastery has taken eight years to complete. I remember standing on the site when there was only earth beneath and sky above. I would like to thank all the supporters of CEC for providing financial and prayerful support throughout this period."
The Mother Foundress of the monastery, Sr Mary Niu Shufen, who received her religious formation in an Augustinian community in England, stated that she was "very grateful for all the support she has received in China and internationally, in particularly from CEC, as without their help this would not have happened."
As the community of nuns begins its mission as active contemplatives, it still requires funds to support the running costs of their monastery and to complete the nursing home. Donations would be gratefully received on the CEC website (http://www.cecchina.co.uk/donations/).
The World Day of Prayer for China occurs on Saturday 24 May. Please hold the work of St Augustine's Garden and CEC in your prayers.