CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Diocese acknowledges value of lifetime witness through religious life

HONG KONG (SE) : The diocese celebrated the silver, gold and diamond jubilees of 38 brothers, sisters and priests, as well as two sisters who have reached 70 years in religious life, one 75 and another 80, at a reception and Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.

Among them was the former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, who was ordained a Salesian priest in 1961.

Speaking at the reception in the Caritas Community Hall, which was attended by around 150 people, Bishop John Tong Hon congratulated the jubilarians on reaching the significant milestones in their lives as priests or religious.

He described the celebration as an opportunity for the people of the diocese to express their gratitude for the many years of service and sacrifice that have been lived out by the jubilarians.

He said that Jesus has called people to pastoral ministry to care for the flock and others have been called to consecrated life to witness in a special way to God’s love.

However, Bishop Tong empathised that the Church is still in need of more vocations, asking every Catholic in Hong Kong to promote vocation to the priesthood and religious life through prayer. He also appealed to young Catholics to ask God to give them a vocation.

He asked people to pray that those who receive the call may have the courage to respond to the invitation from the Holy Spirit with generosity.

A group of 15 sisters from the congregation of St. Paul de Châtres entertained the gathering with two hymns, accompanying themselves with guitar, piano, music sticks, clackers, tambourine, a small, wooden xylophone and the flute.

Each of the jubilarians was introduced individually and Bishop Tong, together with Cardinal Zen and Father John Nep Chai and Brother Maurice Chang, who were marking their 60th anniversary in religious life, cut two cakes, one of which was donated by the vocational promotion group in the diocese, Serra International.

Speaking at the Mass on the feast day of the diocesan cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Zen spoke of our need for gratitude to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the role she has played in Christ’s salvific act, which was offered for us.

He also urged people not to forget the ugliness of original sin, saying without a clear recognition of this, it is impossible to appreciate the greatness of the salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.

Cardinal Zen said that God’s grace is freely offered to everyone and we can be blessed if we accept it with gratitude. He added that then, like Mary, the mother of God, we too can play a supporting role in the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.

A silver jubilarian, Sister Pauline Yuen Yin-ling, from the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, asked in what way the fact of the immaculate conception relates to us.

“It was great for Mary,” she said, “but what about me?”

Sister Yuen said the over her 25 years in religious life she has learned that grace is a privilege accorded, not just to Mary, but to all of us, calling it God’s love for all humanity. She added that while Mary is a great model of holiness, we can also see the nature of God’s love in creativity, as God is not bound by reality, always finding a new way to do the seemingly impossible.

Sister Yuen also stressed the value of patience, saying that with help and the grace from God, we can go back to our original state, which Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall. “But only if we accept and use God’s grace,” she stressed.

She added that Mary is a great model for us of trust in God, saying that to romanticise the Annunciation takes away from our ability to appreciate her acceptance of God’s invitation.

“What happened to her after that?” Sister Yuen asked. “How did she feel? Would the angel come back? How would she explain it to Joseph?”

Sister Yuen said that these questions must have been going through Mary’s mind, but she still continued to have faith and trust in God. “She trusted that nothing would be impossible for God, if only we have trust.”

She thanked the many people who have supported all religious and priests in their vocations, telling the packed cathedral, “We have been thanked today. But we should say thank you to you for the grace that we have been given.”

Sister Yuen concluded, “For us jubilarians, we have sweet memories of the past, of how God has loved us, as have our friends and families. Thank you.”

Bishop Tong offered his congratulations to all the jubilarians, especially Cardinal Zen, saying, “In different fields, like parishes, schools and centres for those of advanced age, you have given witness through your service to the great love of God. May God grant you joy and peace always.”

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