Rain doesn’t dampen Chinese Catholics’ Marian devotion

Despite rainy weather that forced the annual celebration inside, Boston’s Chinese Catholic Community (BCCC) celebrated Mother’s Day with a Marian procession and Mass that embraced their three languages — Mandarian, Cantonese and English — at Chinatown’s St. James the Greater Church.

“Jesus honored Mary, so we honor Mary and we hope that she will intercede on our behalf because she loves us,” said Judy Lew, a member of the BCCC’s spiritual development group, which acts as the Marian procession planning committee.

“This is one of the biggest events of the parish, because all of our communities participate,” she said.

The BCCC Masses are regularly said in Cantonese, but because the Mother’s Day program added Mandarin and English, congregants were seated in sections by language, said Oiwah Chan, whose orange armband identified her as an usher.

The fastest growing segment of the Chinese Catholic community in Boston is from China’s Fujian province, said Laura Chan, the chair of the BCCC council. “They need the most ministering. They arrive here and all they have is their faith.” The Fujians speak a dialect of Mandarin, she said.

The persistent rain forced the marchers to parade through the function hall and lower chapel of St. James. The original plan had been for the procession to start in front of St. James and make a full circle of Chinatown down Harrison Avenue, Washington Street, past the Tufts New England Medical Center and then back to St. James by way of Kneeland Avenue, Lew said.

The procession was first organized nine years ago by members of the Association of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she explained. After two years they passed organizational duties on to the BCCC spiritual development group. In addition to Lew, the other members of the planning committee are Ann Lee, Lucy Shum and Larry Young.

“It was definitely different having the procession on the inside,” said Flora T. Chiu, who proclaimed the first reading and is a management and electrical engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Chiu said it was amazing to see how quickly the program leaders switched gears once the weather turned wet. “It was very organized, I am glad they had a contingency plan,” she added.

Josephine Wong worked all day Saturday to decorate the statue and the litter with flowers, Lew said. “She had no experience or training, but she did such a great job because of how much she loves Mary.”

Just before the litter carrying the statue was lifted for the procession, Vanessa W. Sze, age 7, presented Father Stephen Tong, SJ, the Mass’s celebrant, with a crown of flowers for Mary. “I was so happy,” she said.

“She was chosen because she is so cute,” said Wong.

Vanessa’s older sister, Tiffany, age 10, also helped by spreading rose petals from a white basket. Their mother, Ye Pei Sze, said that Vanessa presented the flower crown last year.

This week, Father Tong is returning to Hong Kong, where he will become the director of the Xaverian retreat house, Laura Chan said. “Today was a beautiful way to see him off.”

Father Tong said he has been associated with the BCCC for seven years, begining when he was deacon studying for the priesthood. In between assignments in China and the Philippines, he has returned to Boston to study at Weston Jesuit School of Theology and participate in BCCC activities.

“We know each other very well,” he said.

When he is in Hong Kong, Father Tong said, he tells people that the Chinese Catholic community in Boston is very strong, friendly and growing. “There is a great bounty of Chinese culture here.”