Friday, October 22, 2010

An Evening in Chicago's Chinatown

After I left Ukrainian Village I took the “L” to Chinatown. What a contrast in places. Chinatown was bustling with people. People were talking, shopping, going to restaurants. Children were playing, teenagers were, well, acting just like teenagers. All this in the context of a neighborhood that looked different from the rest of Chicago. The smells, the sounds and the sites told you that you had just entered a different world.

Welcome to Chinatown

The streets signs were written in English and Chinese. The store windows exhibited exotic foods and inviting pastries. Buddha statues were everywhere.

The Streets of Chinatown

I loved walking down the main street. Besides the stores and restaurants the street had banks, schools, churches and community centers. To the south was the end of the neighborhood, to the west residential streets, to the east the expressway. However, to the north was the outline of downtown Chicago. It is so cool to see the streets of Chinatown and then the Sears Tower rising up in the background.

The Dragon Gate

The area is actually bigger than the first impression suggests. Further north is a park with shopping connected to it. In between is a wonderful Dragon Gate statue or wall that serves as an entrance to both sides.

Chinatown Park

The park has statues that symbolize the animals of the Chinese calendar. While children play on the playground equipment young couples went to restaurants to eat and tourists walked around sampling foods and taking photos of everything.

In front of the park was a large display of photos and posters. It was about the persecution of Falun Gong in China. The display was manned by a number of activists of which only one was able to communicate with me. She told me of the brutal repression of the followers of Falun Gong in China. She described the movement not as a religious movement but rather as a movement that focused on exercise, relaxation and health. She said she would not return to China until the persecutions had ended.

I made three videos on Falu Gong, none of them were satisfactory. My “guide” wanted to make sure I understood the situation and wanted me to get it right but would then become anxious when the camera was on her. Still, she was an effective spokesperson and now I need to learn more about Falun gong and what about it is a potential threat to the Chinese government.

Persecution of Falun Gong

Finally I went to St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church. The church has two Chinese stone lions guarding the entrance. Inside the church is distinctly Italian. Chinatown had once been Little Italy. The beautiful crucifix was a gift from Al Capone’s mother!

St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church

The ceiling of the church has Chinese writing. The world express the idea that only together in Christ’s love are we actually together. This is appropriate because the community is made up of sex Chinese ethic groups. They are united by their common faith. The front also hass an alter for venerating ancestors. This is not about ancestor worship but rather venerating which is what we as Catholic already do with the saints.,

St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church: the Saints

The saints, the relics and the windows all reflect the artistry, history and values of Italy. It is a great reminder that the city is always changing. It also reflects the many changes the members of the congregation have gone through.

I attend Mass and I am again reminded that this is a universal church and that I am home.

St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church: The Crucifix

The yard that ties the rectory to the church is also interesting. The statue of Mary has Asian features. She is beautiful. The garden is Chinese. In the yard is a statue of Buddha. This is to remind the members of the congregation of where they came from and to remind them to respect their neighbors who are Buddhists.

Yard of St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church

It was a wonderful day. I spent time with students from Indiana. I had a brief visit with the Vietnamese and Tibetan Buddhists. I went to churches in Little Poland. I walked all over Ukrainian Village and I interacted with people in Chinatown. It was a great day but a long day and it was time to go home.

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