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A short respite before a new exile


At the end of World War II, the brothers’ return to Hong Kong was held up by civil war in Indo-China, but the three brothers who had remained at St. Joseph’s all through the occupation welcomed them back to Hong Kong. However, Brother Aimar was not among them, having died in 1945.

School resumed on 9 September 1946, with an enrollment of 590 and the work of cleaning up a decimated campus began. Resumption was also assisted by the return of the bulk of the lay staff, but normality was not to return so soon.

There were worries about the state of the faith and Brother Cassian, the then-director, wrote, “There is a general complaint that the war has resulted in a weakening of the faith among the young, and indeed it is somewhat heartbreaking from time to time to read newspaper accounts of Portuguese and Filipinos marrying at a registry office, something that was extremely rare before the war. It will require many years of intensive instruction to recover lost ground.”

The year 1948 saw apprehension growing over Mao Zedong’s revolution in China.

However, on another level, the brothers were looking at the growth of the faith in their school, noting that although half of the student body was still Catholic, they were now of Chinese instead of Portuguese or Filipino descent, so a new catechesis was needed, because the Chinese boys did not come from families with the same long and traditional Catholic background.

Brother Cassian again drew attention to the importance of faith in the school and at the same time provides a reflection on the changing times. “While we neglect none of the children sent to us by God, and we make religious instruction available to all, we frequently remind our Catholics of their serious duty to influence their non-Catholic companions by their good example.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the Catholic school is the only direct way by which the gospel can reach to the hearts of the masses as yet untouched by the promulgation of the faith, and that evangelisation is exercised through the teacher and the staff and the good example of all.”

However, darker clouds loomed for La Salle College. As Mao pushed south, the British colonial government was shoring up its defences on the border with Guangdong. Once again, La Salle College was being eyed as a military hospital.

On 16 July 1949, the brothers were informed by the colonial under secretary that the college was to be requisitioned as a hospital for the military. It was said to be an interim measure for 18 months, but was to last for 10 years.