CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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A candle in darkened lives

HONG KONG (SE): In 1958, the Chinese government conducted a thorough search across the mainland to identify people affected with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). It then relocated them to extremely remote areas of the country.

Fung Ginxian was a young girl at the time, but had suffered from extremely serious Poliomyelitis.

But the authorities caught her in their net, even though the doctors’ assessment of her condition showed clearly that she was not affected with Hansen’s Disease.

She was sent to Ling Lung Leprosy Village. When she was   28-years-old, she lost her parents and her brother and sister-in-law would not take care of her.

Although she had certification that she was not affected with Hansen’s Disease, her family was unwilling to take her back home and so she has remained at Ling Lung up to the present day—almost 58 years.

While for others, Ling Lung Leprosy Village is a living hell, for Fung it is heaven, because the other residents of the centre, who are affected with Hansen’s Disease, are willing to help her and care for her in a way that her own family are not.

A group made up of people from parishes in Hong Kong and Macau has been paying regular visits to this centre for the Hansen’s Disease affected for the past six years.

Their story goes back to 2007 and 2008, when Claretian missionary, Father Jojo Ancheril, was a student of Chinese language at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He was living with Maryknoll Father Tom Payton at the time who used to visit the centres for people with Hansen’s Disease on the mainland. Father Payton took Father Ancheril along with him on his trips from Hong Kong.

Years later in 2009, when Father Ancheril moved to Macau as the assistant parish priest in St. Lawrence Church, he began to visit the centres with a group of friends from Hong Kong and Macau.

As the years passed, the group of friends, under the guidance of Father Ancheril, picked one of those centres in southern China as their mission project, paying regular visits and accompanying the patients.

They deliberately chose people at the centre who were neglected and had been discarded by their families and society. They found a new joy and comfort in the presence of these few friends from Macau and Hong Kong.

The group would pray, eat and stay with the people at the centre during their visits. Slowly they came up with the idea of setting up a charity under the aegis of the Claretian Missionaries.

It is now up and running and the group chose the name Candle Light, as it best describes the nature of its presence among those affected by the socially alienating illness.

As they grew in confidence and their relationships became stronger, many of the people at the centre began to open up and share their stories of pain and despair with their new found friends.

Some of the stories are painful to digest, while some others are so inspiring! Those moving and inspiring stories made the group of visitors realise that they are priceless gems that must be preserved.

They came up with the idea of publishing them, so that their friends and well wishers back in Hong Kong and Macau would know them too.

Candle Light now expresses its pride in Rose, Gloria, Jessica, Manna and Sandy who have produced their first ever book, From the Last Page of Suffering, published in the first week of April this year.

They appreciate any sort of assistance people can offer in support of their mission so they may continue to be a Candle Light in the darkened lives of those who suffer with a sickness that leaves them often abandoned by their families and as social outcasts.

Want to know how to help? Visit the Candle Light Facebook page.