Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 19, 2006
Chinese parish loses 2 priests in a year
Church comes together after the deaths of Frs. Cheng, Jeffcoat
By BILL GLEN
"We are going through a difficult time but we are not alone."
- Don Wong
Cheng was born March 7, 1930 in Nankin, China. He made his first profession Aug. 16, 1949 and perpetual profession Aug. 16, 1956 - both in Hong Kong.
Cheng was ordained to the priesthood June 29, 1959 in Messina, Italy.
He returned to Hong Kong where he served as a teacher and director of a number of ministries.
From 1972 to 1981, Cheng ministered to the Chinese community in San Francisco as a priest at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish. He was president of the North American Chinese Catholic Clergy and Religious Association from 1999 to 2004.
Parish council chair Don Wong knew Cheng while attending a Salesian high school in Macau, a former Portugese colony on the southern coast of China. Cheng was principal of the school.
Wong said the priest had a deep love of teaching children.
"He was our leader. It is always difficult to lose a loved pastor like Father Jim and Father Joseph. They have both been very good role models for the community. They directed the spiritual work and evangelization of the parishioners of different age groups for the various needs," Wong said.
Each man gave 100 per cent of himself for the good of the parish, even in their illness, he added.
"They suffered, but they still showed us how to love," he said. "They followed the Lord's will. It is a very good example for us."
Wong said that while the experience is like a family losing its father, the death of the priests has actually brought the parish closer together.
"We can feel the increase in the bonding of the parishioners to keep us together. We are going through a difficult time but we are not alone. We feel we are still with him and Christ is with us. We are all going through this together."
When he was too sick to celebrate Mass himself, Cheng always attempted to locate Chinese-speaking priests.
Wong said Father John Mak, a retired diocesan priest from Calgary, has put his retirement plans on hold to serve the parish.
"He no longer drives, so he takes the bus from Calgary whenever he is physically able. He is either in his late 60s or early 70s. And we have always had excellent help from the Edmonton Archdiocese. Now we have a very good mix of priests who come and help us," Wong said.
Salesian Father Romano Venturelli said it was surprising that Cheng was ill because he remembers him looking so healthy.
He said Cheng was a man dedicated to his parishioners and his community.
"I was in contact with him the last few months. He received very loving treatment in Los Angeles. One of his parishioners offered his home so he no longer had to stay in a hospice. He was always cheerful and optimistic. He was accepting life and death," Venturelli said.
"He was a holy man and a very good priest," he said.
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