On Monday, December 2, 2019, the leadership of the Chinese Conference of Catholic Bishops visited Mundelein Seminary as part of the week-long American tour. This is the first official visit of the conference leadership to the United States. The visit comes after the historic agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China which allowed the Church in China more normal operation. The delegation of bishops is visiting the United States to learn about seminary formation. This information will assist them in the operation of the eight seminaries serving the Chinese Church.
Mundelein Seminary has had a relationship with the Church in China for several years. Through a partnership with Maryknoll, Mundelein provided formation for four priests from China. The members of the bishops’ conference came to Mundelein to thank us for the priests we have already trained and to explore options for future partnership.
The delegation visit began with a meeting with the Rector, Fr. John Kartje, who described Mundelein’s approach to priestly formation through the integration of the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral dimensions. He spoke of forming good, holy and competent men for the ordained ministry. Fr. John also highlighted the importance of seminarians having significant experience in the parish as a part of their formation, since it is the pastoral dimension which serves to integrate the rest.
Fr. Thomas Baima, the Provost, explained the academic programs to the visiting bishops. He also spoke about the importance of having a clear vision of diocesan priesthood and of the parish as the main encounter which the majority of Catholics have of the Church.
After a tour of the Mundelein campus, the bishops met with members of the academic and formation faculty and the student representatives of each seminary class for lunchtime conversation. The bishops shared their experience of Catholicism in China. They also asked the seminarians about their vocation stories.
At the conclusion of the visit, the bishop-president, Bishop Ma, presented Father Kartje and Father Baima with a number of gifts to remember the visit of the delegation.
The delegation included: Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, Bishop Paul He Zeqing, Bishop John the Baptist Li Suguang, and Bishop John Wang Renlei. They were assisted by Fr. John Chen Guangqian and Fr. Francis Li, who served as interpreters.