CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 April 2019

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A debt to missionaries

The era has come when a generation of veteran missionaries has reached the age when they have to pull the curtain on many decades of life and service in Hong Kong.

Towards the end of last year, the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban returned to Ireland after almost seven decades in the city, leaving their footprint on the education sector, as well as social services and, most especially, the medical field.

Father James Hurley sj pulled out a couple of years ago leaving an impressive record in education, the social justice field and care of the most oppressed in society, but most especially with young people.

In the last few weeks, 85-year-old Maryknoll Father John Cioppa retired back to the United States of America after 50 years in Hong Kong. Father Cioppa was greatly admired and loved by parishioners, teachers and students alike. He bequeaths many fond memories.

His compatriot, Father Ronald Saucci, has also returned after years of work among the English-speaking communities and seafarers.

How missionaries cope in the sunset years of their lives depends on their own congregations, but while some may choose to spend their last years in Hong Kong, others return to their home countries and even their hometowns and families.

Many missionaries harbour a deep affection for their adopted lands and people, but while they may prefer to spend their last years in their adopted land, many factors can preclude this choice.

Ailing health demands arrangements that most congregations simply cannot provide in the disparate regions in which they serve. But often, a new life awaits them at home.

But although they may leave, they do not forget, and Hong Kong should not forget either.

In early February, the universal Church completed the Year for Consecrated Life. Many missionaries attended the closing ceremony. Jesus’ of commissioning his disciples to preach is reflected in the evangelical spirit lived out by these missionaries and is a witness that must be learned from, as it is a spirit that must live on.

There are still a number of retired missionaries contributing to the development of the Church and society in Hong Kong in many walks of life, especially the formation of the deprived and the young. But there are also a significant number of missionaries who are still young and should be welcomed with gratitude and joy.

In his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Pope Francis says, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

We are indebted to the Lord for commissioning missionaries to pioneer the growth of the faith. We are indebted to those who spend their entire lives at the service of local Churches and the despised of society, and even sacrifice their lives for their people.

As in the past, this coming Easter will see over 3,200 adults receiving the sacraments of initiation in our diocese. We owe this growth to the dedicated contribution made by the missionaries who years ago sowed the seeds of faith in this city.


Spreading the word of God in the years to come is a challenge to be shared by all members of the people of God, with one heart and mind. SE