CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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‘I hereby declare the Year of Faith open…’


HONG KONG (SE): “I hereby declare the Year of Faith open,” the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, proclaimed to the applause of some 7,500 people at a ceremony marking the end of the Year of the Laity and formal opening of the Year of Faith held at AsiaWorld-Expo in Chek Lap Kok.

The two-hour programme began with community singing of We are all Catholic followed by the recitation of the Prayer for the Year of the Laity and a pictorial summary of various activities that took place during the year flashed on big screens hung around the giant exhibition hall, climaxing with online chat sessions from Kolkutta, Sydney, Taipei and Toronto.

After a few technical hiccups, a lay missionary from Happy Valley parish working with the Missionary of Charity Sisters in India, Stephania Ling Kwan-wai, reflected on her new life in strange surroundings through a combination of Internet image and the old fashioned mobile telephone.

Her parents were invited on stage while their daughter’s face stared mutely out of the screen while a voice connection was being arranged. They told of a visit they had made to her in Kolkutta, where they actually joined in some voluntary work washing blankets and hanging clothes at the Kalighat Home for the Dying.

They reflected on how their daughter’s life had changed since she left their comfortable home in Hong Kong to rough it in stifling heat without the facilities she was accustomed to, appearing somewhat horrified that she did not even have an air conditioner.

However, with voice connection secured, Ling said that she believes she is responding to a God-given vocation, which makes it easier to adjust to her new life.

“Real freedom is not having what you want. I have learned not to be so self-centred. If we can let go and let ourselves be led by God, we can gain more,” she shared, assuring her parents that she was happy and feeling fulfilled in her life.

With connection problems ironed out, the scene switched to Sydney, Australia, where the audience was introduced representatives of the ever-growing Cantonese-speaking community.

Peter Wan Wing-fat came on stage to share a bit from his visit to the sunny south in the wake of the international Conference on Sharing the Experience of Lay Ministry hosted by the Hong Kong diocese between October 26 and November 1.

The Hong Kong Catholic community in Sydney began organising itself back in the early 1990s and today boasts nine Mass centres across the city.

While Wan reported that there are not enough Cantonese-speaking priests to service all the centres, cooperation with the local Church has led to English Masses with Cantonese community prayer and singing, as well as translated homilies, with the Chinese priests rotating each week.

Wan noted that most of the people in the communities are from Hong Kong, but there is now an increasing number from the mainland as well.

However, he was especially impressed with the young people, relating how they pitch in happily in all activities and even wash cars to give the Mass-going experience that extra edge for many people.

Fung Tai-yung then introduced a community in Taipei, Taiwan, saying that although Catholics are few in number, they have been extremely active on the ecumenical scene.

In contrast to the Sydney scene, Chinese Catholic communities are quite new in Toronto, as 10 years ago they did not exist. However, now there are four parishes.

A Chinese seminarian, Raymond So Yet-long, explained that it was through his involvement in building up one of these parishes in his university days that he discerned his vocation to the priesthood.

He is now preparing for ordination in the diocese of Toronto.

The highlight of a reflection on the seven sacraments was the beautiful voice of well-known star on the local scene, Francis Yip Lai-yee, who led the gathering in the singing of Psalm 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity…”

During the presentation of matrimony, one couple renewed the vows of their wedding day and a permanent deacon, Reverend Faustus Lam Sair-ling, together with Father Aloysius Mak Ying-kin, reflected on their lives in holy orders.

Father Mak said that he really experiences God’s support in his work through the support given to him by the people, especially the young, as was evidenced by the resounding cheer he received from a youthful-looking group in the audience.

The Year of the Laity graciously gave way to the Year of Faith as the apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI, The Door of Faith, was presented and Cardinal Tong reminded people of the four-point plan of the diocese for the coming year.

He explained that there will be an emphasis on recapturing the spirit of Vatican II, passing on the faith through faithful discipleship and learning to live humbly and joyfully with Jesus Christ.

He encouraged people to remember that in whatever their do, they are united with the whole Church across the world and that their role is to witness to the love and teaching of Jesus in the world, while remembering that the gift of faith comes from God.

“We need God,” he said, “and can meet him in prayer and silent reflection.”

A lively afternoon compèred by television newsreader and presenter, Kaman Lee Ka-man, and a vicar general of the diocese, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, came to a close with the former bishop of the city, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, joining Cardinal Tong on stage for the final blessing.

Helen Poon Sui-chi, a member of the Legion of Mary from St. Teresa’s parish in Kowloon, reflected that the afternoon had helped her to understand and contextualise the Year of Faith better in her life.

Claire Urban, from Mother of Christ in Sheung Shui, added that despite her difficulties following the Cantonese, the English sub-titles on the big screens helped her to learn a lot and she was especially touched by what she called the tangible spirit of enthusiasm during the afternoon.


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