Sister Anne Marie Emdin (l) is a welcome visitor for elderly people who have no one. Read on for her update from Macau, China.
Last month, Mr. and Mrs. Hui invited me to share with their family the Winter Solstice Pot Luck supper. He is 90 and she is 88.
Mr. Hui is now totally blind. He had been the Church caretaker for many years and they have a small cement house on the church property next to our elderly center. They borrowed the Church hall for the occasion, and I counted 40-plus family members: children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren running all over the church hall in a wonderful spirit.
As we were leaving, Mrs. Hui said to me, “The wonderful thing about having so many relatives is I can leave the hall and go to bed knowing the offspring will clean up!”
Earlier that day, our center invited all those elderly who would not have someone to celebrate the Winter Solstice with them to join together to celebrate the festival with a noon meal. We started this custom 19 years ago with the idea that either you brought something to share or contributed some money so the center could buy extra goodies.
For the last two years, most of the elderly contributed a bit of cash but this year several decided to do some communal cooking! They went shopping together and were at the center to start their preparations before 7:30 am.
They had a glorious time cooking together in the parish tea area and serving over 60 elderly who came to share the meal. The center, of course, also provided quite a few dishes to supplement the delicious food prepared by the group. Winter Solstice is the biggest festival in the Chinese “religious” calendar, and to be alone on that day is, if at all possible, not to be considered.
The Catholic Youth Center also prepares a meal to deliver on that night to many single elderly or any poor family they know. The youth of the teenage center spend hours cooking and delivering both food and extra goodies to these families on that day before they go home to their own family meal.
Our Pastor, Father Angel, invited all of the morning Mass people to a “bring your own breakfast and share it” after Mass on Winter Solstice. Many had to leave, even though it was a legal holiday, but around 15 of us stayed for breakfast and a bit of a song fest with Seminarian Hung on the guitar and Father on the accordion. Times like this are great for building the spirit of the group.
For Christmas Eve, Father Angel decided that we should go caroling in the north district of Macau (our parish boundary). The main problem was that our three choirs were, for the most part, taking part in the diocesan program down in the center plaza at the same time. Not to be put off by such fickleness by our choirs, Father invited anyone interested to take part in this event.
We were a motley crew of Chinese, Filipinas, Indonesians, one Mexican (the pastor), one Polish assistant pastor, and one tone-deaf American, ranging in age from a toddler being pushed in a baby stroller up and to a couple of 80-plus-year-old women from our elderly center. Father Angel put on a choir robe that came only to his knees and a pair of authentic feathered wings and led the group while playing his accordion. The group also included five other “angels” in cardboard wings and two guitars and a tambourine!
At the Macau-China border, we created a sensation—not necessarily for our singing ability, as part of the group could only sing in Chinese and the other songsters only in English, and we sang in both languages simultaneously, but shall we just say the Macau-China border has not seen such a spectacularly weird vision of angels and red-capped Santas singing in the 450+ years of its existence!
There was a rush for cameras or mobile phones by people going in or coming out of China to record this event and a dash for the candy that the smaller (and not-so -small) “angels” were passing out. Our presence was truly verified on film, and we too had a great fun, getting back well in time to prepare for Midnight Mass.
– Sister Anne Marie Emdin, MM