CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Pastoral letter pushes education

HONG KONG (SE): As the diocese of Hong Kong marked the end of the Year of Faith at a Mass celebrated at the Hong Kong Stadium on November 24, John Cardinal Tong Hon announced in his pastoral letter for Advent that the day would also mark the beginning of the Year of Learning.

In his pastoral letter, the bishop of Hong Kong elaborates on the why of the pastoral priority he has set for the coming year.

He stresses the need for on-going growth in faith, saying that it is not something in which people graduate, but pointing out that it is a journey over a whole lifetime.

“The whole life of a Christian is a catechumenate,” he says, explaining catechumenate as a process of transformation of life through the values of the gospel.

“(It) involves repentance, conversion, dying to our old selves and becoming new persons in Jesus Christ,” he explains.

He points to the intrinsic connection between faith and knowledge, or understanding, quoting St. Augustine as saying, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand the better to believe.”

He describes the launching of a Year of Learning as his pastoral priority to follow on from the Year of Faith. 

He calls it a natural progression, saying that it will run under the theme of Deepening the understanding of our faith and revitalising the spirit of Vatican II.

Cardinal Tong says that a good hard look at Catholic life in Hong Kong reveals most that parishes have a hard core of dedicated people who are the pillars of the community and, even though over 3,000 adults are baptised into these communities each year, it is not always reflected in the pews on Sunday.

He is therefore questioning the extent of even the rudimentary knowledge of the faith among the bulk of Catholics, saying that it may reflect that their faith is shallow and knowledge rudimentary.

Cardinal Tong is looking to develop a stronger commitment to education in parish life, by providing more widespread opportunities to understand the bible and spirituality, as well as calling on parents to pay greater attention to bringing up their children in a strong Catholic ethos and giving stronger support to the newly-baptised.

“The newly-baptised must realise that baptism is only the beginning of their journey of faith,” he says. “It is through lifelong learning, experience, reflection and practice that their faith takes root in their hearts and, in turn, is manifest in their lives.”

He adds that this calls for a better level of socialisation into parish life for newcomers in their communities.

In his pastoral letter, Cardinal Tong outlines the special responsibilities that priests have in the field of on-going education for parishioners, as well as for those asking for baptism.

He also has praise for the more than 1,600 trained catechists who walk with them.

However, he notes that for the newly-baptised it can be hard to run solo, so more attention needs to be paid to the follow up process.

“It is no wonder that when they encounter challenges or trials in this society of ours, which is flooded with information and permeated by permissive cultural trends and confusing moral values, they find it difficult to keep up their faith,” he says.

“Instead, (they) drift with the secular tide unable to let the power of the gospel shine forth in their daily social and family life.”


He expresses his dream as seeing significant progress being made in all areas of diocesan life that are involved with either formal or informal education in the faith.

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