Mary Teresa Wang of China
This sweet little girl is one of those children whom God raised up for Himself in pagan surroundings, and later transplanted into the heart of the Catholic Church. She was born in Peking, China, on April 1, 1917, and was given the name Ta-jouen. Her family was very wealthy and belonged to the educated class. She grew up with an older brother and two younger sisters.
Ta-jouen had a very strong will, even as a child. One day another child took one of her toys. Later when the maid was holding her, she noticed the child with her toy and pointed at him. And she did not stop pointing until the toy was given back to her!
The girl's mother died when she was very young and an aunt took the place of her mother and cared for the children. When Ta-jouen was old enough, she went to school to learn the Chinese letters, and during this time she proved to be an intelligent girl. On her days off, she would play in the park with her younger sisters and this she did for most of her childhood.
When Ta-jouen was eleven years old, she graduated from elementary school. She had her picture taken on that day, and she was dressed in her finest. She wore a white silk dress, and a rose coloured scarf around her neck. But although this was a happy occasion, the family was worried about her health; she had lung trouble. On February 22, 1929, she was taken to St. Michael's Hospital, in Peking, which was run by the Sisters of Mercy.
Ta-jouen was most interested in her new surroundings because now for the first time in her life, she was in the midst of Catholics in a European type hospital. Early in the morning she could hear the ringing of bells, coming from the chapel upstairs. Ta-jouen was curious, so she asked her nurse, "Please Catherine, tell me what the Sisters do up there so early in the morning?"
"They pray," the nurse replied.
"What! They Pray? Ta-jouen questioned. "I once heard someone saying evil things about the Sisters, but I did not believe it. And to whom do they pray?"
"To God," Catherine answered.
Ta-jouen kept asking more and more questions… "Who is God?… Who is the Mother of God? … What is Communion? … Why do the Sisters receive Communion? … Does one have to be baptized in order to get to Heaven? … What is Baptism? … The questions were endless! The poor nurse was all out of breath from answering so many questions, but that did not stop Ta-jouen, she kept on and on until finally she asked, "What is the Holy Trinity? Can you explain that to me?"
Catherine explained as much as she could about the Holy Trinity, and when Ta-jouen asked for a further explanation, the nurse replied, "If you wish to know more, then please ask the priest about it." Now the wonderful thing was that at the same time that Ta-jouen was there, a missionary priest was staying at the hospital. The priest went to visit Ta-jouen, answered all her questions and taught her to pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary. As soon as the priest left, Ta-jouen called her nurse, "Catherine, do you have a rosary? … And how do you say the rosary?" Catherine did have a rosary; she explained how to say the rosary and before long Ta-jouen learned how to say the rosary as well.
Someone gave Ta-jouen a Chinese Catechism with pictures in it and the girl learned more about the Catholic Church. Another missionary came to visit her for half an hour every day, and taught her the basic truths about the Catholic Church. Before long, Ta-jouen asked the priest to baptize her, but he told her to ask her father for permission, first. The girl wrote to her father and he objected saying that she was too young and that she should wait until she was twenty. Ta-jouen wrote again telling her Papa that she might not live that long and that the Catholic Religion made her very happy during her illness. When Mr. Wang got this second letter, he changed his mind and gave his daughter permission to become Catholic.
Before she was baptized, Ta-jouen chose the name Mary; in honour of Our Lady, and the name Teresa; in honour of St. Theresa of Lisieux. The priest prepared her for her First Communion as well and on April 21, 1929, Mary Teresa was baptized in the chapel of St. Michael's Hospital. Her aunt and two little sisters were also present at her baptism, but her father could not come as he was too far away at the time. On the following day Mary received her First Communion. She wore a white dress and a wreath of white roses on her head. And when she received Our Lord, she asked Him to give her some very special graces.
On April 23, 1929, Mary left St. Michael's Hospital, as her health had improved a fair amount. She went with Catherine to visit her home and then went to Wen-tsuean so that her health could improve even more. But this hospital had no chapel, no priest, no Mass and no Holy Communion! In time poor Mary became very homesick and instead of getting better, she became weaker and weaker every day.
So Mary returned to St. Michael's Hospital in Peking and there she became quite well again. Her father came to see her, hoping that he could take her back home with him, because later he wanted her to attend High School in Shanghai. Mary was not able to go right away and before her father left, she told him that she wanted to make her two sisters Catholic as well. But he said that the best thing for her to do was to give them a good example.
Soon afterwards Mary returned home, as her health had greatly improved. At home she said her prayers and lived like a good Catholic girl. On June 13, 1929, she wrote a letter to the Mother General of the Sisters of Mercy, begging to be allowed to become a nun. But since she was only twelve years old, she was not allowed to join the Sisters.
On October 24, 1929, Mary and her aunt went by train to Shanghai. Her father wanted to have his daughter there with him and did not want her to live through another cold winter in Peking. In Shanghai, Mary went to the Sisters of Mercy Hospital on Saturdays in order to go to confession and then stayed there overnight. On Sunday she went to Mass and Communion.
In the spring of 1930, Mary returned to Peking. She wished to continue her studies there but her health was too poor.
On September 29, 1931, she was Confirmed by the Monsignor Costantini, the Apostolic Delegate to China. And on that day, to her great joy, he gave her a beautiful medal of St. Theresa of Lisieux.
In spite of all the loving care that Mary received, her health slowly became worse and worse. On January 14, 1932, she went to the hospital again. She suffered very much and her illness caused her to be as helpless as a baby. It was most humiliating to the girl to have everything done for her, but such was the Will of God. Mary's heart was full of charity and she was always mindful of all those who took care of her. On New Years Day, she had a Chinese Banquet prepared for all the servants and though she was not able to eat any of the food, she was happy when she saw that they were enjoying themselves.
Because of her spells of suffocation, Mary could receive Holy Communion only once more. She suffered greatly when she was not able to receive Jesus. And little by little, she realized that she could never become a Sister of Mercy, because she was simply too sick.
Mary still had one wish; she wanted to be buried in the cemetery of Chala. Chala is the cemetery of heroes that contains the graves of many holy martyrs. It is also the last resting place of the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters gladly agreed to give Mary a resting place in their part of the cemetery. And being obedient to her father, she had the Sisters send a telegram to him, asking his permission as well.
Poor Mary suffered more and more. She could hardly breathe and could not eat any food at all! On February 22, 1932, the girl was nearing her end. Her aunt, a nurse, and a priest were always at her side. Mary had such great pains and found it so difficult to breathe that she could hardly stand it. But she remained quiet and closed her eyes, just so that the priest might go and take a rest. Mary was always thinking of others, even when she was suffering.
February 24, 1932, was her last day on earth. After severe pains, she suddenly became quiet and spread out her arms in the form of a cross. A beautiful joy shone from her face; her eyes gazed upward and a smile played on her lips; she had gone to Heaven.
She was laid to rest in her white dress, in the Cemetery of the Sisters of Mercy, in Peking, China. Mary has given us a wonderful example of love for the Catholic Faith, of charity and of calm perseverance in suffering. Let us all learn to be like Mary Wang.
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