Sister Mary Pan: My Mother’s Question

Sister Mary Pan (UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan)
Sister Mary Pan. Photo: UBSCP/Yeo Tan Tan

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is taken from John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”(New Jerusalem Bible) I often tell myself that even God does not withhold his only beloved son to the world, how then could I cling onto my worldly desires and possessions?  That was why I decided to serve God single-mindedly by taking on the vow of celibacy and become a Catholic nun.

To begin my testimony, let me share with you a little about my family background: I grew up in a non-Catholic family with 2 younger brothers. Being the only daughter and the eldest child, I grew up close to my mother.

My Mom’s Question
Like most country folks, our family struggled hard to make ends meet. As a single-parent, my mother had to bring up her three children single-handedly. One day she was lamenting to a neighbor that “life was really tough!” On hearing this complaint, the neighbor, a Catholic, replied that, “however hard life had been for us, it would not be as tough as Jesus’ life on earth. Jesus’ life ended by crucifixion and it was not for something he had done but for our sake.” This speech aroused my mother’s curiosity leading to an evangelistic sharing by the neighbor to my mother. Later my mother put her hope and trust in Jesus Christ and embraced the Catholic faith.

It was because of my mother’s faith that I started attending a Catholic Church as a young child, at first just as my mother’s companion. My earliest recollections of the Church were that the building was very old and the priest was a kind elderly man. I was then 19 years old, an impressionable age, and like Doubting Thomas, I started questioning if there really was a God in heaven?

Life-Changing Journey
Because of my lack of faith, the elderly priest encouraged me, together with 3 other friends, to embark on a pilgrimage journey to Guiyang city for the purpose of visiting the city’s Catholic churches. On the return journey by train, something life-changing happened to me! While traveling for some time, I felt thirsty and decided to leave the carriage where my three friends were seated to get a drink of water. When I got back to the carriage, I could not find my friends. I did not panic at that time, at least not yet, as I walked up and down the carriages in search of my friends. When I asked a stranger if we have arrived at Anshun (my hometown), the lady replied, “O, have you fallen asleep? We have passed Anshun sometime ago and we are now at the next town.” It was then that I started breaking out in cold sweat. When the trained pulled into the next station, I quickly alighted. Enveloped by an eerie darkness, I had no idea where I was. It was deserted in the station as it was already past midnight. Just then, I spotted a fellow traveler who had also alighted from the same carriage. I mustered up my courage to ask the stranger for directions home. When he told me that there was no more public transport at that time to return to my hometown, I found myself breaking down and crying out softly, “O Mother Mary, help me please! Save me!” The kind stranger felt sorry for my plight. Immediately he offered to take me home where his wife could help get together a suitable lodging for the night for me. I did not know what gave me the courage to accept help, especially from a male stranger, so late in the night. But I did. Then I seemed to have the confidence that all was well. So I followed this kind stranger home and not only did he offer me shelter for the night, but his wife also put together a hasty late supper for me. The next day, I bade my kind host farewell with deepest gratitude and took the earliest bus home – rather an anti-climax ending to my night’s adventures.

Nevertheless, this incident drew me closer to the Catholic faith and to Mother Mary. It was also from that time on that I decided that I should no longer doubt God or question if there really was a heaven out there. From then on, I embraced the faith unreservedly.

A few months later, both my mother and I were baptized on August 15th, the Day of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Written by Pamela Choo
From an interview with Sister Mary Pan
for United Bible Societies, China Partnership