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From Seed to Tree: The Journey of Chinese Spiritual Formation at Mercy Center

By Agnes Szeto

The late Sister Janet Chau, dedicated to fulfilling God’s will and shepherding God’s people, founded the Chinese Ministry of Spiritual Formation about twenty years ago with strong support from Mercy Center. Her mission was to provide spiritual enrichment to Chinese Catholics in the Bay Area. Over the years, Mercy Center has provided a beautiful, serene, and peaceful environment for Chinese Catholics to engage in various spiritual activities, including day retreats, workshops, and in-depth spiritual programs. Chinese Catholics in the Bay Area have enjoyed these wonderful resources.  In addition to being grateful for Sister Janet’s selfless dedication, we also deeply appreciate the generous support provided by Mercy Center.

One notable program within the Chinese Ministry is the 16-month “Be an Integral Human” course, designed by Father Thomas Kwan from Hong Kong and led by spiritual director, Gabrielle Lou. Through this curriculum, participants gain a deeper understanding of themselves, embrace all living beings more ardently, and follow the Lord more wholeheartedly. The course teaches that each of us is like the tree of life, evolving and growing. We are rooted in the soil of this world, gradually maturing with the grace of God and through the nourishment of education and spiritual practices. After many seasons, we bear our own unique fruits.

Over the past sixteen months, we have learned to uncover the seeds already living within our hearts, gradually shedding the outer layers to reveal our true selves. By nourishing them and weeding out excess, we allow them to thrive and grow strong. We aim to nurture the seed of our true selves into flourishing trees, abundant with leaves and fruits, so that others too may taste their sweetness and enrich their lives.

Many people spend their lives chasing perfection, whether in themselves or others, which can lead to feeling trapped and living lives that are neither free, nor joyful. Life inevitably has its ups and downs, and along the journey, we are bound to experience fragmentation and struggle. Some may carry the scars of past hurts and regrets, allowing them to linger and overshadow their later years, perhaps even leading to a life lived in vain. However, the truth is that as individuals grow through certain stages, they can gain deeper insights into life. In retrospect, we come to realize that God, through diverse avenues and various experiences—whether it be moments of happiness or sorrow, joy or pain—consistently demonstrates unwavering love and steadfast presence, never abandoning us.

As we respond to God’s immense love and care, we should also consider how to give back to others. Life is a choice; with awakening, one can choose a different attitude towards life. Through life’s trials, one can aspire to elevate one’s emotional and moral integrity. This enables individuals to truly live as a testament to the Divine, bringing glory to God and leading a different kind of life. We are grateful for this awakening. Having completed the 16-month spiritual formation program, we will now participate in the continuation program titled “Toward Becoming an Integral Human.”

This tree-planting project holds profound significance. We hope that this Liquidambar tree will bear witness to our growth as it transitions to different colors and forms throughout each season, symbolizing the various stages of our lives, each radiating its unique splendor. Each phase embodies its own beauty! Planted on the grounds of Mercy Center, this tree will flourish, silently narrating the passage of time. For generations to come, visitors will reminisce about their ancestors’ quest for enlightenment at the Mercy Center, striving to fulfill the mission of building the Kingdom of God on earth, glorifying God, benefiting humanity, and spending years striving to be good children of God.

從種子到大樹:慈愛中心華人靈修的成長故事

司徒何玉玲

已故的周懿坤修女為了承行天主的旨意,竭力牧養天主的子民,大概二十年前,在慈愛中心的鼎力支持下,成立了Chinese Ministry of Spiritual Formation。其旨意是為灣區華人教友提供靈修培育。多年來,慈愛中心提供了一個環境優美、景色怡人、寧靜舒坦的地方給華人教友進行各項靈修活動。除了日間避靜、工作坊,慈愛中心還提供了更深入的學習計劃。灣區華人教友能享用如此美好的資源,除了感恩周修女的無私奉獻,更深深感謝慈愛中心的慷慨付出!

「成為完整的人」是慈愛中心華人靈修培育組的一個為期16個月的學習計劃。該計劃由香港的關俊棠神父設計,靈修導師Gabrielle Lou教授帶領。學員能透過課程,更通透地認識自己,更熱切地擁抱眾生,並更心甘情願地追隨上主。課程教導學員,我們每個人就是一棵生命樹,亦即成長中的樹,紮根在這個世界大地的土壤上,藉著恩典的陽光和教育修行的雨露逐漸成長,幾番歲月後,結出每人獨特的果實。

在這十六個月中,我們學習發掘那顆已經活在我們內心的種子,慢慢將外皮剝落而將真我顯露出來,繼而施肥、除草,讓它茁壯成長,變成一棵青蔥大樹,枝葉茂盛,果實纍纍,讓他人也能品嘗那甘甜的果實,豐盛他人的生命。

許多人一生中都在不斷追求完美,無論是對自己還是對他人。這份壓力常讓人活在囚牢中,生活不自由、不愉快。人生中難免有高高低低,生命歷程中也少不了肢離破碎。有些人會因過去的傷害而耿耿於懷,帶著遺憾終老,甚至虛渡一生。但其實,當人成長到某些階段時,對生命會有更深層的體悟。回顧一生,我們會發現上主通過不同途徑和經歷——無論幸福還是不幸,開心或痛苦——不斷向我們顯示祂的慈愛和不離不棄。

在我們回應上主大愛和眷顧的同時,也應該思考如何回饋其他生命。生活是一種選擇,有了覺醒,我們可以選擇另一種生活態度,透過人生的磨練提升生命的情操,真正做到榮主益人,過另一種不一樣的人生。我們感恩這份覺醒。完成了16個月的同修計劃後,我們將繼續參加名為「邁向成為完整的人」的延續課程。

這次的植樹計劃也有深刻的意義。我們希望這棵液態琥珀樹能見證我們的成長。它在每一個季節都會展現不同的顏色和形態,象徵我們的人生在不同階段也展現出不同的光彩,每一段都有它的美態!這棵樹將會在慈愛中心茁壯成長,不知經過多少年月,我們的後代每次探訪時,都會憶起祖先曾在慈愛中心尋道,實踐人間天國的使命,做到榮神益人,度過追求成為天主好兒女的歲月!

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