Introduction from the editor: A Passionist in China: Present Meets Past
Over the years I have come to appreciate the value of The Passionist Historical China Collection. Painstaking reading of documents about missionaries fostered a sense of romance and criticism: China is all good; China is all bad. One letter often contradicted another. Even more challenging was my attempt to teach, talk about or write about 20th century Chinese history in an American culture that relished news of the dark side of China even as they got excited about a trip to the Great Wall or eventually began to anticipate the opening spectacle of the August 8, 2008, Beijing Olympics. Caught in this whirlwind of long-standing Passionist, Chinese, and American tradition I made the decision and took the adventurous risk to live and teach in China. I wanted to learn, and I wanted to give back to China.
This issue of the Newsletter summarizes my experience from Fall 2007 to Fall 2008. In the first essay, I consciously made a decision to speak in a generally positive tone about my year as past encounters had taught me that readers or listeners will articulate their “problems” or “questions” about China. Both aspects form the debate. The second essay delves into the long-term historical aspect of returning back home. So many people, once having traveled, lived or worked abroad, have to face domestic culture shock and a fast paced world where cross-cultural listening from friends and family and conversation or learning for us all has about as much depth as a TV news sound bite.
China, for the post-World War II generation, has been seen as place of suffering from the early 1950s through the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). This is less the case in 2008. I hope my experience in China will assist in building an experience of hope and reconciliation between peoples of the world and China. Finally, I wish it to help expand and redefine the meaning of Passionist religious life, priesthood, mission and service for the future.