China’s Little Flowers
By Fr. David Ullrich, O.M.I.
|Fr. David Ullrich, OMI
Father David Ullrich, O.M.I. is the delegation leader for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in China. He was born in 1942 in San Antonio, Texas. While studying to become a missionary priest he was sent in 1967 to the Oblate mission in Japan, where he was ordained in 1971.
In 1975 he returned to the United States and served 21 years in parish ministry, mainly among Mexican immigrants in California. He also served for six years at the U. S. provincial level where he was in charge of the portfolio on mission and evangelization. Father Ullrich has been a missionary in China for the past four years. Here are some reflections from Fr. Ullrich on his ministry in Hong Kong:
“One of our main Oblate projects in China is a collaboration with an organization called China Little Flower, helping to extend the love of Christ to abandoned disabled children.
Brent and Serena Johnson, the organizers of China Little Flower, have 18 years of experience with orphans in China. When I first met Brent back in 2006 we started talking about what China Little Flower does and what the Oblates do. When Brent heard that the Oblates try to share the Good News with the most abandoned, he immediately pointed out that it is hard to find anyone more “abandoned” than an infant left on some stranger’s doorstep by its parents.
It was then that Brent asked if the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate could help China Little Flower with some of its spiritual needs. I and other Oblates began to visit periodically when in the area and to celebrate Mass with the volunteers, staff and children. I had a feeling that the Spirit was directing us to learn from this wonderful work and that we would eventually become more intimately involved in it.
Then in 2008 circumstances were such that the Oblates and China Little Flower entered an arrangement of mutual cooperation. Since then the delegation has been involved at various levels of the work with these abandoned children.
Different kinds of care are provided by China Little Flower in several locations in China. The special care unit currently has 23 infants abandoned at birth because of some serious physical defect. With the one-child policy in China, parents are often overwhelmed at the thought of only having a disabled child. Some parents choose to abandon their children in the hope that others will provide the help they themselves cannot. Increasingly, many of the babies arriving at the special care center are without disabilities but have been abandoned because of premature birth or low birth weight. Recently one of the infants, a little girl, was actually an abortion survivor discarded in the garbage and later entrusted to China Little Flower.
Part of what is provided at the special care unit is dedicated to the care of dying infants. China Little Flower offers a place where the little ones may die with dignity and in an atmosphere of love. It is a strong, wordless message about the value of human life, even the tiniest and the most hopeless.
When the non-hospice children get better and stronger they are placed in foster homes while they await adoption. China Little Flower keeps the children with disabilities who are not likely to get adopted and places them in other longer-term projects specifically set up for them. Over the past year the Oblates have been fortunate to arrange for four lay volunteers from Australia to teach English to these children. The goal is to provide these youngsters what they need to develop life skills for independent living. Currently there are about 25 children in four different homes.
I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of what we are doing in our mission in mainland China. Father Luc Young, O.M.I., Fr. Irek Damps, O.M.I. and I are all involved at different times and in different ways in this project. In fact, it is much more than a project. It is an encounter with life at its most vulnerable. These children touch our hearts. Things become very clear when their little hands touch ours and we look in their faces. It is as if we have stumbled upon Bethlehem in a far-off land.”