CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Celebrating the service offered by priests and religious in the diocese


HONG KONG (SE): “We offer our gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those who today are celebrating their 70th, 60th, golden and silver jubilees of ordination or entry into the religious life,” John Cardinal Tong Hon said at an afternoon tea held in the Caritas Community Hall, Mid-Levels, to mark the long service of priests and religious in the diocese on December 7.

This year, Sister Philomala Chan and Sister Costanza Della Morte celebrated 70 years of religious life, with Father Vicenzo Carbone, Father Vincent Lam and Father Stanislaus Sun celebrating 60 years of priesthood.

One brother and seven sisters marked 70 years and 16 sisters and two priests had their golden jubilees. Three priests and seven sisters made it to 25 years.

“We ask God to reward you 100-fold,” the bishop of Hong Kong continued, adding that in this Year of Faith the diocese is making a special effort to promote the vocation to the religious life and priesthood.

He told the around 200 people present that he sees the family as being especially important in this role, as it is the cradle of life and the development of the Church.

“Promoting vocations is everyone’s responsibility,” he continued, as he called on younger Catholics in the diocese to pray for the grace of a vocation and to respond with generosity to the movements of the Spirit and the call of God in their lives.

After a couple of catchy hymns performed by the Missionary of Charity Sisters to a haunting drumbeat, the jubilarians joined Cardinal Tong in cutting two cakes prepared for the occasion, with the Serra Club of Hong Kong donating one of them.

An annual event in the Hong Kong calendar, the diocese acknowledges the long service of priests and religious on or about the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the feast day of the diocesan cathedral in the Mid-Levels.

The bishop of the city invited all present to join in a Mass celebrated in the cathedral after the tea party. He was joined in the concelebration by the former bishop of the diocese, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, and around 100 priests working in the diocese.

Cardinal Tong led a prayer of dedication to Our Lady as the patron of the cathedral church and diocese, as a candle was placed at the foot of a shrine at the front of  the sanctuary.

Reflecting on 25 years of priesthood, a visibly jubilant and audibly nervous Father Vicente Sanchez said that looking out into the packed church was like looking at the spirit of Vatican II in action.

“The Church is a community,” he said, “and there are many functions within the Church and different types of service. We are all called to serve in our own way and today we are celebrating the particular way in which priests and religious offer service to the whole community.”

Father Sanchez then asked for strength from the people of God in celebrating the feast of the patron of the cathedral church, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

“Why was she blessed with a life not of her own making,” he asked, answering his own question by saying, “Every time we pray the Hail Mary we have the key to that question in the words, ‘Full of grace…’”

He explained, “She was blessed with the life not of her own making because she was full of grace. In the same way, we are full of grace and we give life that is not of our own making too.”

He said that the good that we do can be attributed to the blessings we have received from God.

He concluded by saying, “I thank you, the people of Hong Kong, for the blessings that you have given to me and the blessings you give me here today.”

While the spirit of Vatican II was a growing force in the Church when Father Sanchez entered the seminary, golden jubilarian, Sister Theresa Chien Sao-lin, said that when she entered religious life in 1962 it was just beginning and, when she made her first profession in 1965, it was just ending.

She said, “I believe that God linked my vocation with the renewal of the Church and that the Blessed Virgin Mary accompanied me in my journey to my spiritual birthdays, the day I entered the convent and the day of my first profession, as both were on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.”

Sister Chien reflected on her years working in a primary school, and then at a school for children with special physical needs.

“I realise from my 32 years in the education field that a teacher has to learn with the students,” she continued, “and the experience of 28 years working with children with difficult physical challenges in life and watching the courage they displayed in overcoming them has left me with a great hope.”

She concluded, “I believe that I learned to live and love bravely and realise that life is a series of ups and downs.”

In conclusion she led the congregation in a prayer of gratitude to God.


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