From the Director
Fr. Peter LiChun Dong is a new face among Columban missionaries. Recently ordained, he is the first Columban priest from mainland China. This month he is celebrating the Chinese New Year in his home country, but soon he will head off to his new mission in Pakistan. Together with several experienced colleagues, he will shape a new century of Columban mission in that country, where ninety-five percent of the population are Muslim and less than two percent are Christian.
However, Fr. Dong already knows what it is like to live as a member of a religious minority. Christians account for less than five percent of the total population of China, and Fr. Dong was born in a remote village where Catholics were very few. However, his family had treasured their faith for several generations, and his parents were determined – despite indifference and misunderstanding by those around them – to pass it on to their two sons. Their dedication to God and to their family was the seedbed of Fr. Dong's vocation to the priesthood.
“A missionary strives to be like the householder” he says, “who takes both new and old things from his treasure chest.” (Mt. 13:52)
However, as a young man, Fr. Dong knew little about the world outside his home province, and so he decided to become a diocesan priest. He had already spent several years in the seminary when he first met a Columban missionary priest. However, that encounter awoke in him not only a curiosity about the Church in other countries, but also in missionary priesthood. During the following months, as he learned more about Columban mission around the world, he found himself yearning to be a part of it. Finally, after much prayer and reflection, he left the diocesan seminary in order to prepare for Columban missionary priesthood.
As a Columban seminarian, Fr. Dong was soon exposed to the joys and struggles, the tears and dreams of missionary life. Sent to the Philippines to complete his studies, he had to learn English and adapt to life in the seminary with companions from different countries. Later, he spent two years in Chile where he learned Spanish and ministered in a Columban parish. Through these various experiences he came to realize that, as a Chinese Catholic he had unique gifts to share, but also that his own faith could be enriched by people in other lands.
This year, as Columbans embark on a new century of mission, the newly ordained Fr. Dong is joyfully preparing for his new mission in Pakistan. Yet, he remains deeply grateful for the blessings he has inherited from his family, his home country and the Church. "A missionary strives to be like the householder" he says, "who takes both new and old things from his treasure chest." (Mt. 13:52)