Zachary Baker Rodes
Today the Episcopal Church commemorates the lives of three incredible women in 19th century China and who each independently helped spread the Gospel in their native country. However, I wish to start with some history. Many may not know that the story of Christianity in China dates possibly to the 6th century, though certainly from the 8th century, which is documented on the Nestorian Stele. However, the Christian faith would be banned in 845 and was extinct in China by the end of 900s. But by the 1200s, Christianity would reappear in China thanks to both Mongol tribes who were Christian and European traders.
By the 19th century, Chinese Christianity was influenced by the Catholic and Protestant colonial missions, making the faith suspicious to the Chinese authorities. Agnes, Agatha, and Lucy all were born into Christian families and were from southwest China (Guizhou or Sichuan provinces if you know Chinese geography). Agnes’ story is one of incredible resiliency for she lost her parents young and when she married, her husband and his siblings never fully accepted her for her Christian beliefs. When her husband died, she was cast away from her husband’s family. She was taken in by a wealthy Christian Chinese widow and learned more about the faith. Agnes was subsequently “found” by Fr. Auguste Chapdelaine who asked to help teach to faith to Chinese families. Agatha would open a school for girls and Lucy would start university but had to drop out to care for her dying faither. She would eventually help in teaching women and children as well. I have no found any evidence that they knew each other, as they were born in a close time period and lives in relative proximity, but each would become catechists of the faith and die for their faith as a result.
Lord Jesus Christ,
who willingly walked the way of the cross:
Strengthen thy church
through the witness of thy servants
Agnes Tsao Kou Ying, Agatha Lin Zhao, and Lucy Yi Zhenmei
to hold fast to the path of discipleship even unto death;
for with the Father and Holy Ghost
thou livest and reignest,
one God, for ever and ever.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington