In Tangshan Diocese in China’s Hebei province, a Catholic couple sowed the Gospel seeds more than half a century ago.
And Sacred Heart Church at Caofeidian in the diocese celebrated its consecration Mass on May 2, presided over by Bishop Peter Fang Jianping.
More than 30 priests, six nuns and about 1,000 church members from various parishes of the diocese attended.
The Caofeidian district was in the past called Tanghai County and there reportedly were no Catholics there before 1962. When Lu Hongbin and his family settled there in that year, the Catholic faith began to spread.
Some local church members said that although Lu Hongbin suffered during the anti-religion 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, his faith abided.
After later reforms and opening up by the nation’s communist regime, Lu’s house became a venue for community religious activities from 1980 to 1996.
The late Bishop Paul Liu Jinghe of Tangshan encouraged Lu Hongbin and his wife, Sun Wenrong, to evangelize and strive to establish a formal place of worship. The couple helped build up the congregation, with membership exceeding 100 by 1995.
“At that time, people came for Mass in Lu’s home and they needed to be squeezed into three rooms,” Bishop Fang said in his homily.
In 1996, the faithful purchased a small two-story building and successfully applied for a religious venue operating certificate.
With a fast-growing congregation, Father Fu Jinghui chose the current 2.3 acre church site and Father Zhang Haitao applied for the required land certificate in 2015.
Using a design by church member Su Jianguo, construction of the church began two years later and was completed before the 2018 feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“Today is one of great joy. It’s a blessed day,” said the bishop, who added that with God’s blessing the construction period was injury-free. Evangelization is proceeding smoothly, church officials said.