Year of the Rat

As Chinese, including Catholics, get ready to celebrate the Year of the Rat, Annie Lam, head of the China office for the Asian church news agency UCA News, talks about the impact the country’s heavy snowstorms have had on the lunar new year.

Pedestrians pass Sacred Heart Cathedral in Shenyang, China, last March after a heavy snowstorm. Now an open and functioning cathedral, it was among the churches forced to close during the Cultural Revolution. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)CNS photo editor Nancy Wiechec and I were in Beijing last March for the fireworks ending Chinese new year celebrations, which often stretch for weeks. When we visited the Great Wall, we were surprised to see snow on the steps, but the city of Shenyang got hit with more than a foot of snow. After hours of delays, when we finally reached the airport in Shenyang, it was astounding to see the limited amount of snow removal equipment and the drifting. People were trying to clear some of the large runways with shovels.

When we drove from Shenyang to Fushun, there was a little less snow, but very cold temperatures and lack of central heating meant the nuns in the Sisters of the Sacred Heart convent there wore sweatpants and down jackets under their habits.

Everywhere we went in China, we heard of the importance of the lunar new year to families and how people would travel for days to be with their loved ones. So as the Year of the Rat begins, our hearts go out to those stranded in airports, train and bus stations, and we commend those Chinese Catholics who are sacrificing to try to help those affected by the heavy snows.

PHOTO: Pedestrians pass Sacred Heart Cathedral in Shenyang, China, last March after a heavy snowstorm. Now an open and functioning cathedral, it was among the churches forced to close during the Cultural Revolution. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

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