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Richness of history can give courage

Hong Kong has reached an era when many well-established religious organisations are reaching significant milestones of commitment to the people of the territory.

This year, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers marked their centennial of foundation, with a presence in Hong Kong for nearly all of that time, the Dominicans look back on 150 years, the Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital chalks up 50 years and La Salle College in Kowloon turned 80.

During the turbulent history of Hong Kong, the people have faced plagues, hostilities—first from pirates and war lords, then world wars, foreign occupation and revolutions, as well as economic disasters and shortages of natural resources.

They have also dealt with the challenges of receiving floods of refugees and even a change in sovereignty. Through all this, these noteworthy institutions have faced and overcome incredible challenges.

Any one of these could easily have become serious enough to put an end their ministry and force them to fold up. But they did not.

It is a credit to resilience, creativity, endurance and the will to continue, as well as dedication and commitment.

What each has demonstrated is an ability to place the needs of others before its own. They have all had the ability to keep the question, what can we contribute to the common good, as a primary focus. This has been a source of strength and prompted the wider community to continue its support.

While anniversaries are not to be gloried in, they provide an opportunity to review the past from the point of view of ongoing development. They are important in terms of the old adage, “If you want to know about the future, study the past.”

The ability to keep the common good as a focus is extremely important in terms of establishing the kingdom of God, as the Church is an institution that does not exist for its own good, but for the good of the world.

In this context it is perhaps helpful to think of mission, not as something that belongs to the Church, but to think of the Church as something that belongs to mission. It is not so much the Church that has a mission, but the mission that has a Church.

In current times, as the Church is being bombarded by restrictive forces in many parts of the world, it is important to keep in mind that it must always be at the service of the mission of God.

As the diocese awaits the outcome of a judicial review in the Court of Final Appeal over the introduction of Incorporated Management Bodies in Schools, the courage of those who have gone before us can give some comfort and confidence, as well as the courage to keep on asking the question, how can we continue to contribute to the common good, despite difficulties placed in the way.

The determination of school sponsoring bodies to keep inspiring a school with their vision is a critical factor in ensuring the creativity to find new ways, despite obstacles.

Whether this could prove an obstacle greater than what has been faced and overcome in the past is a moot point, but history is a great teacher and the presence of institutions with long and rich histories is a significant source of both inspiration and creative resource in times of uncertainty. JiM