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The China Formation Committee

China Formation Committee

Back to the Beginning

By Fr. Eamon O'Brien

The Missionary Society of St. Columban was founded in 1918 for evangelization in China. The first Columban Fathers went to China in 1920 and began work in Hanyang. The Columban Sisters began work in China in 1926.

By 1954 all Columbans had left China. Links between the Columbans and their former friends and people were difficult to maintain for many years. However, some were sustained.

In 1977, the Columban China Commission was established and consisted of appointees by Central Administration. The purpose of the Commission was to keep the Society in touch with the new developments which were beginning to take place in China. The Columban China Commission ended its work in 1989, and the China Mission Unit (CMU) was established in 1990. 

During the Ecumenical China Forum meeting in Dalgan Park, Ireland, in June 2002, a group of Columban Fathers and Sisters who were interested in China met. They proposed to the General Council that the China Commission should be reestablished. Among the reasons given for the re-establishment of such a forum to channel various energies into one thrust and to support the China Mission Unit.

The General Council had discussions with the CMU and decided to establish the China Formation Committee. The rationale for that given in the circular letter of the Vicar General "is that in recent years some 'Home' Regions have facilitated church personnel from China to study in their regions. These regions budgeted for their expenses and this worked fine up until now. However, there has been little coordination between Regions and with the CMU. We agree there is a need for a more organized plan."

The China Formation Committee was established in June 2003, and the first meeting took place in Manila, the Philippines, in August 2003 with representatives from Australia, Britain, China, Ireland, Philippines, United States, and from the Columban Sisters. In 2004, Taiwan joined the group, and in 2005, the coordinator of the China Mission Unit was appointed.

The goals and general mandates of the China Formation Committee are: 

  • To strengthen the structures and processes of Chinese formation by creatively assisting in the formation of Chinese priests, Sisters and laity, through responding to their requests and enabling them to study outside China
  • To respond to formation needs of the Church within China by seeking out new opportunities and innovative approaches
  • To develop and strengthen the partnership between the church in China and the local churches of Australia/New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, Korea, Philippines and the United States. This partnership will be based on mutual respect and support for each other in the living of one's Christian mission. Through this exchange with China

we believe our home churches will be enriched and strengthened by the history and the life of the Chinese Church.

One hundred years after the founding of the "Maynooth Mission to China," the China Formation Committee continues the work in China.

Columban Fr. Eamon O'Brien lives and works in Ireland.