Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Charles McCarthy’

Letters from Shanghai: Keeping the Flame of Faith and Joy Alive

A little more than half a century ago, Jesuit Father Charles J. McCarthy sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on his return to San Francisco as one of the last two Jesuits released from prison in Communist China, a confinement he endured for four years following an earlier house arrest by the Japanese during WWII.

Waiting for him were his brothers, Walter, Alex, Robert and their families, including Walter’s 10-year-old daughter, Mary Jo, who would later chronicle the dramatic story that linked her father and uncle, a story documented in hundreds of letters written by the two men over more than 50 years.

The letters illustrate the history of China, from the Japanese occupation in World War II to the Communist takeover; they also reveal the devotion of brothers, a connection that endured despite distance and deprivation.

Aug. 2, 1952 – From Charles to Walter: Today is my 23rd anniversary as a Jesuit. It doesn’t seem that long since the family was all together. We certainly had some good times and lots of fun around the table. Dad was especially encouraging when I raised the vocation question with him, and he talked Mom out of the idea I was too young. The trip to Los Gatos was a step light-hearted enough for me, but I’m sure Mom and Dad felt deeply the first splintering of the family. Fortunately, though, there’s never been any real separation of our hearts.

In 1941, Charles sailed for Peking, where he studied Chinese for two years before the Japanese placed him and 29 colleagues under house arrest in Shanghai until the end of World War II. “He was able to send me letters via the Red Cross,” said Walter.

Upon his release, Charles taught theology in Shanghai until July 1946, when he returned to the U.S. to study journalism at Marquette University. He moved back to Shanghai in 1949, where he was appointed the superior of the Jesuit School of Theology in Shanghai, making him the highest-ranking American Jesuit in the Shanghai Jesuit Mission. He worked with Jesuit scholastics until his arrest by the Communists in 1953, when he was led away from his room at gunpoint, accused of “ideological sabotage” for giving harmful guidance to his students.

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