12-Missionary Atmosphere In the southern sector, corresponding to the Yunnan Province, adjacent to Tonkin and Siam, the ‘lolo’ people are peaceful, and among their partly nomadic tribes Christianity is flourishing. It harvested flowers and fruits of virginity and heroic sacerdotal vocations. This is not quite what happened in the northern region or Sichang. Here and there some conversions were obtained, but in a rather sporadic way. Various missionaries from Paris have been working with insuperable zeal, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Redemptorist Father Joseph Campos have baptized some thirty captives belonging to the nobility of the city of Sichang, but these fruits are no more than a poor gleaning. Not what we could ever call an abundant harvest… And with such workers as the Missionaries of Paris, offering their lives and blood to the Master of the harvest, sacrificed by the very same “lolos”: Father Henry Boiron, of the Suifu (Ipin) Vicariate in the year 1936, Father Lucien Boiteux, of Sichang, who was killed by Chinese outlaws, and not by the “lolos”, in 1946.
The “lolos”, with their divers tribes, such as the “moso”, “sifan”, “lisu”, find themselves driven by the Chinese towards the high mountains and hidden valleys, and always remain desirous of their independence, while the Chinese, considered to be “the strong invaders”, take possession of the rich lands in the valleys, form their villages, towns and cities, enlarging the desolate circle of forest devastation, which, in a way, protects the ‘lolo’ people. The tribes, ethnographically different and very inferior numerically, easily coexist peacefully and with the assistance of the centuries they become Sinified: they adopt Chinese agriculture, change little by little their manner of dress, humanize their primitive customs and even live in Chinese town. All the same, in Sichang there exists a law, not strictly kept, that no “lolo” can pass the night, and still less lodge within the city walls.
This city is facing the midday sun on a slope between two tumultuous torrents that dash down the mountain range towards a fertile and extensive plain and towards the sea. Four kilometres away stands a lake of cerulean waters. The local people proudly call it a “sea” which measures some 30 kms in circumference and in whose surface is reflected the “Deer Mountain” with its temples, pagodas and summer hotels. The mountain is covered with forest which wild beast inhabit. Sichang is surrounded by a strong wall made of large baked bricks and embattled and defended by turrets and double gates. Being the residence of the high mandarin functionaries and the second capital of the Tibetan Frontier Provinces, it numbered in bygone days of the Empire its administrative offices, which the negligence of the Republic caused to be brought to ruin.
Here the missionaries established their mission centre. It became the Kien Chang Vicariate in 1910. Kien Chang extended, in the decline of the Manchu Empire, over all the western region of the “Frontier Provinces” with Sichang as its administrative centre. When Brother Albert began his functions here, the missionaries of M.E. of Paris had a procathedral church, an episcopal residence, a seminary, a Redemptorist community, another community of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, and a college, all within the city walls. Two or three Protestant denominations competed in the mission work, but with not so much success. The city life was regulated with the ringing of the church bells for the Angelus, three times a day, from the procathedral church belfry. This solemn ringing spread over the town and the plain, under its ever sunny sky.