My Catholic Environment

My religion is Roman Catholicism. It has been so for most of my life. I have been going to Sunday school since grade one and have continued up to maybe grade six. However, I may have missed a year somewhere during that time. I go to Saint Francis Xavier Chinese Catholic Parish which is at the corner of East Pender Street and Princess Avenue in Vancouver British Columbia. I also sometimes go All Saints Parish on Fairfax Street in Coquitlam. That one is closer to my house. The pastor there was Father (Desmon?) McGoldrick. He passed away a couple years ago in England. The pastor at All Saints now is Father Vincent Hawkswell. I haven't been to All Saints for quite a few years when I was in high school so I have no idea when Fr. Hawkswell came on and who was pastor for the parish between him and Fr. McGoldrick. Fr. Hawkswell contributes weekly to the BC Catholic Newspaper in explaining the readings for that Sunday.

SFX use to rent the Lord Strathcona school across the street of Pender from the church. We would have our Sunday school at the school before crossing the street for mass. I remember frequently skipping mass after Sunday school in grade four. How sorry I feel now for not having kept the Lord's Day holy! It was I guess in grade seven when our parish had to return the Strathcona school and so we had to use our school building on East Georgia Street. I don't remember what we did with that building on Sundays, however. I do remember attending chinese class there in grade three on Saturdays. It was in grade two (or was it three) that I got baptized. However, I don't remember who my teacher was.

After returning Strathcona, we no longer had Sunday school on Sundays. Rather, we had it on Wednesday evenings. We called these classes "CCD" whatever that stands for (maybe "Confraternity of Christian Doctrine"?). They were also called "catechism" classes. Our parish also has a daycare center across the street from our Georgia Street school. If my memories are correct, I attended class in the Georgia street building while, for some reason, also go to the daycare center as well. I guess this happened in my grade seven and eight years. The first few lessons in grade nine were held in the Georgia street building. After that , we just met at the daycare center. It was in my grade eight class that I prepared for confirmation. The teacher was Sister Elisa, I think her name was. I don't see her around anymore.

The last time I took CCD class was in grade nine. The teacher was Francis Chan. He was a pretty cool guy. Our class did a lot of stuff together. We played beach volleyball at Kits Beach, but that was in grade 10. We went to a retreat at the Vancouver School of Theology at UBC. The priest in charge of us there was Fr. John Horgan who was suppose to be pretty well-known speaker. We went to some small church in an Indian reserve or something and Fr. Horgan told us about the time when the church or someother church was on fire and a statue of Michael the Archangel was saved. The statue stands at the top of that church by the bell. On Saturday, me and a couple other guys got volunteered by Sister Tang to be sent back home because the residents complained. It wasn't even us three who were noisy. It was these two girls in our class who brought speakers along with their CD player. But then we prayed and then the residence manager and our priest said we didn't have to go back. Anyways, the guys of our class went to the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission for a weekend this one time. I don't know what the girls were doing; the seminary was a guy's place. Talk about simple living! My appetite was way too big for their meals. That last year in CCD was the best; I loved it.

So. My spiritual life didn't really climb to any significant level in terms of maturity. It wasn't until my second year in university that things started heating up somewhat. I got introduced to this family who were extremely devout Protestants. For the first few months, they challenged my Catholic faith. And throughout these couple years, an occasional (though not often) remark about a "mistake" of the Catholic Church was made. But in the beginning, man, talk about adverse criticisms! I don't know if it was my back-talk or was it just them, but they totally gave me a headache! Maybe it was my lack of intelligent answers or maybe I was shocked at the hostility. I could barely answer any of their questions with the exception of basic Christian beliefs. They didn't attack the Catholic Church such that they would say it was the anti-Christ or something (at least not in my presence). Nevertheless, they cornered me and seem to be proud of themselves. I disliked their attitude. One time, the landlady told me that she wanted to know more about the Catholic position on Mary. I had brought some pamphlets over from home on the Rosary as well as the Fountain of Mercy according to Sister Faustina. I thought that my landlady would better understand Mary if she read about the Divine Mercy first. However, she just took the rosary pamphlet and after flipping through some of the pages, she started criticizing it. A short time later, she returned them and told me that she was no longer interested in Mary. She claimed the teachings to be too horrifying for her and that she couldn't take it. Well, so much for respect. It seems that she didn't actually want to know more about Mary - just looking for something to attack the Catholic Church about.

Oh well, nobody's perfect. I didn't have any experience in explaining my Catholic faith to others and I didn't even know it as well as I thought I did. Thanks be to God, I was able to access a lot of information by exploring the internet and I learned a lot over the next eighteen months or so. I talked to Father Dominic Ip who was pastor of SFX for a few years. He's no longer around; he went to pastor St. Andrew's elsewhere in East Van. He recommended Fr. Rolf who is pastor at the Holy Cross Parish in Victoria as my "spiritual director". Both priests were of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). Holy Cross also had, I guess, an associate pastor from the Philipines called Father Rob. He hanged around for a bit and then left. Holy Cross was the church that I went to during my first year at UVic. I also went to St. Andrews Cathedral in downtown Victoria. That is the church I now go to because I don't have to switch buses going to church. Less walking and waiting too.

I didn't really liked talking to Fr. Rolf. He didn't seem to provide much useful solid and practical information. He often goes around in circles; not really what I was looking for. Fr. Ip, on the other hand, gets things to the point. He identifies the underlying problems and then goes to tackling each problem. They were more applicable to my situation. Maybe it was because Fr. Ip use to be a Protestant. This is not to say Fr. Rolf didn't do a good job; it's just that his approach, in my view, didn't suit my situation the best. His approach was more of a "easy, breezy, relax and have faith" type. I guess at the initial stage of my dealings with evangelicals, his approach didn't fit me well. My grasp of faith wasn't good enough. I thought it was just a lack of knowledge; I didn't realize that there is a lot more than just knowing history and theology. Faith also has a lot to do with it. However, now that I have learned a lot more, I may benefit more than I did if I went to talk to Fr. Rolf again. Besides, I think Holy Cross is better than St. Andrew's. Maybe it's the interior; the ceiling is so high above that it somehow doesn't seem as personal. Or maybe it's the way the priest does his sermon. Or maybe both.

I also go the fellowship meetings with the Canaan Fellowship at Victoria Chinese Alliance Church. The building is currently undergoing major renovation so fellowship meetings are held at the UVic campus. The meetings are held every Friday and I go every now and then. I've been to their Bible studies, prayer meetings, and evangelistic meetings. During the summer, I also went jogging, played soccer, basketball, badminton, and swimming. We even went bike riding once. I confess that I join in a lot of their activities, and almost none with the local Catholic congregations (the only thing I joined in was the ALPHA course offered at St. Andrew's and I only went for a few sessions). In all honesty, that is because I only know a few Catholics who go to UVic and they are not sincere church-goers. Also, I like to hang out with Chinese people and those evangelicals are the kind of people that I like to be with because they are nice (as opposed to those who smoke and swear and stuff like that). Also, I like to take time off and do something fun on Fridays.

Being with sincere protestants like that Canaan fellowship, I have been challenged by a number of members since I joined about two years ago. Almost each time I sit down to discuss with them, whether it's in the church or at the restaurant where we go after fellowship or at somebody's house, one or two hours go by. This one time, I spent six hours talking with this one member ("Timmy"). Timmy is probably the most knowledgeable of the fellowship members. He's really devoted; he says he spends hours doing bible study and he reads a lot of books. Unfortunately, most if not all of them that mention the Catholic Church are not orthodox material written by Catholics (just representations by evangelicals). We had that major talk at a friend's house and I basically stayed over. The actual talk about Catholic stuff was only about three or four hours; the rest of the time was more focused on Timmy's personal life and experiences. Frankly, I don't mind talking to him at all, but I just wish he was more open as he proposed to be from our very first "dialogue" about a year and a half ago.

Now that I'm done with UVic, I of course go back to SFX and is now in the Chinese Catholic Youth Organization (CCYO). The folks there waste a lot of time fooling around and I sometimes can't help comparing them with the guys from Canaan fellowship. As probably was expected, there is much more zeal and dedication at Canaan than at CCYO. However I try not to be judgmental; it's not like I'm a saint or anything! I was told they used to do quite well before a couple years ago when they just slided all the way down. Now they are making new year resolutions about improving the club in all respects including membership and especially the spiritual aspect.