Among the main difficulties in living the faith in China, she said, is the lack of public holidays for Catholic feasts.
"Especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. If you want to attend the celebrations, you have frequently to ask for the day off," she said.
Yan always attends Mass on Sundays, serves as a lector, and is a member of the choir in the cathedral. She said that they can certainly celebrate Mass publicly, but this is "only permitted within the Church building."
"We can't parade outside the courtyard."
Though Rome is very far away, she has a perfect way to feel closer to Rome: EWTN. "I watch daily Mass on EWTN every day. We can read the news about the Pope and the Holy See on the Internet."
Aside from keeping themselves informed on the life of the Church worldwide, local Catholics try to take part in it as well. Some young people planned a trip to Krakow for World Youth Day this year, and St. Joseph's Cathedral opened its Holy Door on Dec. 8.
"The celebration was very important," Yan said, adding that she wasn't able to attend because of work. "The Holy Door is a very important symbol, for Jesus said, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.' People have to go through the Door of Christ to get the salvation."
But the opening of the Holy Door had another symbolic meaning in Yan's view, because "it connected us with the Holy Catholic Church. One, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."
Yan Xu's art.
There are some tensions between the Catholic Church and the Chinese government, which has set up a parallel Catholic Patriotic Association that has sometimes named bishops without Vatican approval. Some Catholic clergy, including bishops, have been imprisoned for their loyalty to the Holy See.
There is some legacy of these problems in Wuhan. Yan said she always faces "prejudice from other people."
(Story continues below)
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"I would love to attend Mass every day, but I cannot, because Mass time conflicts with my working time."
In 2007, she went back to school and took a graduate degree in art history. She saw this as "another way to help me be in touch with the Catholic faith."
Yan has now created a special portrait of St. Thomas Aquinas. She won honors for the portrait in the "Veritas et Amor" international contest run by Circolo San Tommaso D'Aquino. The Italy-based cultural society is dedicated to the influential theologian, philosopher and saint of the 13th century.
Her portrait depicted Thomas Aquinas in the style of an illuminated manuscript.
"Thomas Aquinas makes me reflect about how to build the goal of my life, and find out the plans of God for me. In fact, the plans of God are often unfathomable, but you have just to pray," she said.
Yan said she finds comfort in art. "Painting, or depicting, things of God is a special way for me to pray."
This article was originally published on CNA April 6, 2016.