Papa's Baptism

My mother-in-law, Lemin (I call her Mama), is a devout Chinese Roman Catholic. Christianity was brought to China starting as early as the Tang Dynasty in the Eight Century. Her family’s beliefs date back possibly as long as Yuan or Ming Dynasties.  However, it has often faced persecution, particularly since the take over by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. One of the reasons Lemin married my father-in-law Jinduo (I call him Papa) was to gain some protection from persecution; he is a typical non-religious Chinese.

Lemin prays multiple hours per day. She prays for Jinduo to get better, as he is very ill. He has rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Recent blood tests have shown that his liver and kidney functions are down 25%. Our doctor estimates that he has about 2-years left before his body completely fails.

Lemin is his full-time nurse, as he needs help to do everything – get up, use the washroom, brush his teeth, eat and move between the bed and his wheelchair. With this 24-hour supervision, she also the only person he talks with. No one visits him. It is very sad.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, Rosa and I were told that Papa wanted to be baptized. Mama must have been talking to him about this for a very long time. Papa doesn’t really believe in God, as far as we can tell. He is certainly not indoctrinated into Christianity and I doubt he knows and understands the basic tenets of the religion.

It seems evident that he is scared of dying. He must understand that his time is growing short. He is weak and in great pain during the entire day. He is dependent on mama for everything. He can no longer walk or push himself up or move from the bed to his wheelchair without great help.

Three weeks ago, Peter, a deacon with the Ottawa Chinese Catholic Church, came to visit all of us to discuss the baptism and to see if his family (meaning Rosa and I) supports Papa’s decision. Rosa and I both agree that we support his decision and will do whatever we can to help out. We said that if he wishes to go to church, we would book ParaTranspo to take him to church and back. However, that doesn’t appear to be his desire – plus the church service is only in English, which he does not understand.

When I was in Los Angeles, Rosa let me know that the baptism would happen when I returned. I asked that it be held on the weekend so that we can prepare and so that we can invite others to come too.

Chuxiong Huang performs papa's baptism.
Chuxiong Huang performs papa's baptism.

Today we had the baptism ceremony. Chuxiong Huang was the Chinese priest and he was assisted by Peter the deacon. Other attendees included the family of one of Papa’s health-care attendants, a family from the church and another woman from the church.

The ceremony took about 15 minutes. We all stood in the living room while the rites were performed. Even though it was performed in Chinese, Papa didn’t seem to understand very much, which is not unexpected for someone without any education and indoctrination in the Catholic Church. He was baptized and took his first communion.

Afterwards, everyone stayed for some snacks and to talk. When Papa grew tired, I carried him upstairs to sleep.

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