CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Eighty-six new catechists
 added to the pool

HONG KONG (SE): The graduation of the 49th class from the Diocesan Catechetical Centre on July 14 added 86 new catechists to the pool of volunteers who accompany people during their preparation for baptism in the diocese.

The centre has been training catechists to work in parishes and schools in Hong Kong for the past 50 years and to date a total of 4,472 people have graduated from what is now a two-year course.

Each parish and Catholic school in the diocese welcomes people who wish to know more about the faith.

They rely on catechists to take up the challenge of guiding them in their search and instructing them on the teachings of the Church.

At this year’s graduation ceremony, held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a total of 86 new catechists graduated, 24 men and 62 women.

Amelia Lau Tong-huen, the director of the centre, explained that the graduation class for this year is made up of people who have been assisting in the catechetical programmes at 22 parishes, in addition to 15 teachers from 11 secondary schools, as well as 18 teachers and two principals from 13 primary schools.

In addition, there are two teachers and one vice-principal from separate kindergartens, together with three sisters from two different congregations.

At a Mass celebrated by the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, together with Father Philip Chan Tak-hung, a consultant to the Catechetical Centre; Father Dino Doimo and Father Christopher Joannes Chong; the cardinal told the graduates that the day represents a beginning, not an end.

He encouraged the new catechists to follow the example of the early Church and put a lot of effort into reading the bible, prayer and gathering together in a spirit of charity and love.

Cardinal Tong added that working as a catechist in today’s world demands great flexibility and encouraged the new catechists to continually look for ways to improve their work.

He wished them well in guiding people in their experience of the faith and sharing their understanding of living a life of faith, so as to help those who are searching to understand and encounter Jesus Christ in the tradition of the Catholic Church.

Lau told the Sunday Examiner that this year’s graduates come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from commerce, banking and insurance to social welfare, legal services and journalism, to name a few.

She added that some are tertiary students and others housewives.

“Amidst their busy lives, they managed to spare time to study the two-year course and this should be appreciated,” she explained, adding that she believes this year’s graduation class is especially blessed by the centre’s 50th anniversary, and she hopes they can make practical use of what they have learned.

Speaking on behalf of the graduating class, Francis Tsui Po-keung, from Rosary parish in Tsim Sha Tsui, thanked the instructors from the course for their patience and encouragement.

He said he found the course informative and well-structured, which has left them all with good memories. He said that he wanted to give a special thanks to Lau, especially since she is retiring in September.

Lau told the Sunday Examiner that over the past 22 years, since she joined the centre, she has always felt that God has blessed her with the opportunity of seeing so many people graduate each year.

She called it a blessing and a privilege to witness firsthand the great number of people who are willing to face their faith so seriously.

She explained that she believes that she came into the job at just the right time, as the course was already well established.

She said that the centre has always followed the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council in structuring its course and that it is designed to support the spirit of renewal in the Church.

“It would have been difficult to set up a centre and have to decide on what principles to follow on our own,” she reflected. “Now with the guidelines and the work of my predecessors, the centre has a strong foundation.”

After presenting each graduate with a certificate, Cardinal Tong passed a candle to a representative of the graduating class.

He explained that it symbolises the light of truth and he hopes and prays that the new catechists will be effective ministers in the work of spreading the gospel in the world.

Anthony Chan Tak-leung, a retired parishioner from the Holy Family church in Choi Hung, told the Sunday Examiner that he found the course quite demanding and, especially since he had never had any experience in religious studies, he found himself under pressure.

However, he said that because he is retired, he had plenty of time to prepare for his examinations. 

 But most of all, he reflected that he is thankful, as he has found that it has given him a new direction in life.

Chan explained that it was not his own idea to take up the course, but he had been asked to do it by his parish.

He said that they were looking for someone who was available on weekdays and, because he is no longer working, he was a natural choice.

“The parish priest picked me because there was a shortage of manpower and I was the only one available on weekday afternoons,” he explained.

He pointed out that he only teaches a simplified, shortened course of three to four months, mostly to older people who are housebound.

He regretted that two of them passed away soon after they got baptised.

“But I am happy I could share something of my experience of God with them before they died,” he said.

A Vietnamese sister from the St. Paul congregation, Sister Martha Le, said she joined the course as preparation to teach Sunday school at St. Paul Convent Primary School.

However, for her, she found the most challenging part understanding the theological terms in Chinese.

The centre will hold an official celebration of its golden jubilee on October 27 and will present long service awards to long serving catechists and others who have made a significant contribution to its work over the past five decades.

 

During its 50th year of operation, it has also held walkathons and seminars to raise awareness of its mission in the diocese and encourage people to give their support in any way they can.

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