A Roamin' Catholic: Maintaining Faith Abroad

Claire Vodicka
April 4, 2015

Before coming to China, in my last minute panic, I made a list of things I would be absent for while I was abroad.  Including, but not limited to, ten birthdays, an annual end of the year party, and the entire Lenten Season.  That last part really got to me though; not only was Easter on my mom’s birthday this year (happy birthday, Mom!), but it was also the biggest event held at my house and in my Church.  I am a devout Roman Catholic, and I would be studying abroad in a country where religion basically isn’t a thing. 

There are many misconceptions about China that one might have if they’re purely going off of the media, and the religious aspect is one of them.  China has plenty of Buddhists and Muslims, but very few Catholics.  When speaking to my parents about coming to China and having to keep my faith on the down-low, we were looking into other options for me to practice my faith.  Someone had read somewhere on the internet that there were small weekly gatherings on Sundays in people’s homes to practice our faith.  Well rest assured, I got my ashes this year, and not in somebody’s apartment, but in church in the middle of Beijing, at one of their English speaking masses.  I myself was highly misinformed before moving here, and had I known more, I would not have left my cross at home.  There are plenty of opportunities abroad to maintain your faith.  Especially in a big city like Beijing, I not only have a church available to me for masses, but I have my pick of churches, and as long as I don't set up a soap box on the corner and start spreading my religion, no one cares that I practice a certain faith.  In fact, I've found that a lot of young people who are learning about different cultures are interested in the concept of religion.

Anyway, back to the program:

So you’re interested in maintaining your faith abroad?

Things you can do to get started:

  1. Ask your RAs or host parents to point you in the direction of your place of worship.
  2. If there are none in the area, or if your religion is not practiced in your host country, create a space in your room or in yourself and set aside room and time for your faith.
  3. Keep in mind the laws of the area- I’m not allowed to preach my faith on the streets, but that does not mean I can never talk about it or go to my place of worship.
  4. Get involved!  My American RA is a member of the choir at one of the churches in Beijing.
  5. Appreciate life! Seeing wonderful things and just getting this opportunity is something to thank God for, so take the time to do that.
  6. Say your prayers!  (this step is also helpful in the program: so you're dealing with anxiety abroad).
  7. Remember your holidays and Holy days- skype or call home if you can.  And celebrate them! Whether that’s by going to mass, or sharing your day with friends or just dressing up a little more.  Faith resides within you.

Whether you need a Bible or a prayer mat, there are plenty of options for you to be religious on the go.

You can even go easter egg hunting! Wait, no, that’s just the National Center of Performing arts…

My own belief is that where ever you go, God will follow.  I have this magnificent opportunity to study abroad and learn more about the human race and different cultures.  I have seen incredible things, both man made and natural.  I make a point to thank God for the wonders He has created and for allowing me to witness them.  Keeping God in mind helps me enjoy China to the fullest.

Have a happy Easter, no matter where you are!

-Claire

One of the extravagant active temples that we've visited in China

Stopping to appreciate how vast and incredible the world is

Another moment to stop and appreciate life

Buddhist Monks at one of the many temples in China

A man prays in front of a statue in a Buddhist Temple

Lighting insence is common in the Buddhist Faith

From the steps of a Catholic Church in Dali, Yunnan

Just another thing to remind us how huge and amazing this world is: the sun rising over the mountains at Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan

Claire Vodicka

<p>My name is Claire Vodicka and I travel to learn language and culture and grow as a person. &nbsp;I currently speak English, Spanish and Chinese, with a little bit of Italian on the side. &nbsp;I love to take pictures, especially of people; capturing their true emotions in the moment. &nbsp;I&#39;m just enjoying my time in college and documenting every opportunity I have been blessed with.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2015 Spring
Home university:
Seton Hall University
Major:
Spanish
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