CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Celebrating the vocation of the teacher

HONG KONG (SE): The over 12,000 men and women responsible for the forming and informing of young minds in the 267 Catholic schools in Hong Kong were reminded that students are able to achieve things which are seemingly impossible at the Catholic Teachers’ Day held at the AsiaWorld-Expo convention centre in Chek Lap Kok on May 17.

At the opening ceremony of a day sponsored by the Catholic Education Office under the theme I am the way, the truth and the life, students were asked to wear miner’s hard hats replete with lamps on their heads, as a reminder to teachers of the challenge they have taken up to be the guiding light of their pupils.

Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing encouraged the teachers to remember that every student that comes into their class is loved by God as a unique individual, irrespective of the often unreasonable expectations of their parents, the pressures of a commercialised society and the high demands the education system makes on them.

The auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong said that despite these challenges, teachers who can hold onto their own faith and values are able to have a positive influence on the lives of those entrusted to their care.

Depicting the difficulties posed by problem students in all schools, who remain a perpetual challenge to the daily life of any teacher, a drama portraying various scenarios involving rebellious behaviour and anti-social attitudes, as well as the difficulties students with a low level of academic ability or low self-confidence face, was performed by a group of students and teachers.

The drama showed that the core values of Catholic education—truth, justice, life, love and family—can have a profound effect on the formation of students and be an encouragement to face their futures with courage.

In his address, the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, outlined the principal aims of Catholic education as described by the Diocesan Synod of 2002, which notes that Christ is the foundation of the education process.

He then stressed that an essential challenge is to present the concept of life as portrayed in the gospels as being an invaluable core of Chinese culture.

He said that a principal aim must be, “To generate in our students’ human attitudes, to cultivate wisdom and virtues, to pursue the truth, verify merits so as to develop persons who cherish human values and who are sound in body and mind, moral courage, good taste and creativity.”

He then spoke of the place sport has played in the development of his own life, which he described as helping him form an attitude of never say die in the face of difficulties and challenges.

He pointed out that teachers, as educators, carry a heavy burden and that sport can inspire a good balance between body and soul, both in themselves and in the lives of their students.

“All we need to do is to uphold a persistent courage, a charitable spirit and trust in the Lord, and all the problems shall be easily solved. The way of Jesus is the way to the truth,” he said.

“When we accompany our young people to learn the truth, to understand the meaning of living and to love life, we shall accomplish our mission to build a culture of life,” he continued.

He pointed out that he believes this is extremely important at this time in Hong Kong, as in recent months an alarming number of students have taken their own lives.

He said that this highlights the importance of promoting a culture of life in society.

He added that teachers can take a lesson from the Year of Mercy, as the primary challenge of Christianity is to announce the love of Christ to all people.

“The Church should make herself the servant of love,” he said.

Cardinal Tong explained that when we live out this message in a spirit of forgiveness we can touch hearts.

While this year marks the 175th anniversary of the coming of Catholicism to Hong Kong, it is also the 173rd anniversary since the foundation of the first Catholic schools for Chinese boys—marking the beginnings of an education system that today accommodates over 150,000 students.

Cardinal Tong commented, “The Catholic Church in Hong Kong always emphasises education, the quality of schooling and moving ahead with the times.”

A video recalling some of the historical turning points of the life and development of the Church in the territory was screened and this was followed by a series of presentations of various aspects of school life from the perspective of students.

The bishop of Hong Kong stressed that all teachers do harbour noble sentiments and he wished them all, whether Catholic or not, the ability to work together in making their schools mutually caring, mutually respectful and mutually supportive communities.

Sister Susan Koo shared some of her experience of introducing extremely young children to the dramatic change in life that takes place in the first years of education, reflecting that seeing them overcoming their early fears really lights up the life of any teacher and makes the job worthwhile.

The Episcopal Delegate for Catholic Education, Canossian Sister Cecelia Wong Yeuk-han, acknowledged the great contribution that her predecessors have made to the growth of the Catholic education system in Hong Kong.

She said that she believes they have laid a strong foundation for the presentation of values in modern education.

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