CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
A milestone on one missionary journey

HONG KONG (SE): A packed Christ the King Chapel roared its approval as Arjay Venus, a seminarian from the Missionary Society of the Divine Word, was presented to the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, for ordination to the deaconate on June 9.

In the presence of a large contingent from the Filipino community in the city, as well as parishioners from St. Edward’s parish in Lam Tin and Our Lady of Fatima in Macau, together with friends from the Prince of Wales Hospital where he has been on pastoral experience for the past 12 months, and some of his family, Cardinal Tong laid hands on him and presented him with the Book of the Gospels saying, “Receive the gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.”

His mother then dressed him in the vestment of a deacon and placed a stole across his shoulder before exchanging a sign of peace with him.

The oldest son in a family of 11 children, three of his sisters and two brothers were able to accompany their mother on the trip from their home in Legaspi City to be present at the ordination.

Thirty-three-year-old Reverend Venus joined the Divine Word Society in May 2003 at its formation centre in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan. He then went on to study philosophy at Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City, graduating to the society’s school of theology in Tagaytay City in 2009.

Reverend Venus told the Sunday Examiner that he believes he began his long journey to Hong Kong and the deaconate as an altar server and convento (parish house) boy at the family’s local parish of Simbahang Hesus Nazareno.

He believes that the seeds had already been sown during his boyhood days, but with the death of his father in 2000, his five brothers and five sisters, and especially his mother, resisted his decision to go to the seminary, as the family had financial difficulties.

He said that as the eldest son he understood his financial responsibility towards his family and has always felt a deep gratitude to one of his sisters who stepped in and lifted the burden from his shoulders, leaving him free to respond to his chosen vocation.

On completion of his theology course in Tagaytay, Reverend Venus was appointed to Hong Kong, arriving on 2 September 2011 to face the big challenge of two years of Cantonese study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He then had a year at Our Lady of Fatima parish in Macau, where apart from solidifying his linguistic skills he had the chance to get a real hands-on feel of what ministry in a parish situation is like.

Returning to Hong Kong in the summer of last year, Reverend Venus did a course in clinical pastoral ministry and as part of the team at St. Edward’s devoted much of his time to visiting people in their sunset years, as well as patients at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin.

He also described the time as being a valuable exposure to many sides of life in Hong Kong, as he joined a team from the parish each week in supplying food to homeless and street people in Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok and Yaumatei.

He spoke of how he found this quite confronting, especially the exposure he had to the debilitating effects of drug addiction. He described the experience as giving him a much broader and more sensitive understanding of people’s situations and social issues.

The burly figure of the fresh-faced Filipino seminarian has also been a regular sight among the many communities of migrant workers in the city. With his pleasant personality and openly warm, welcoming manner he has been a popular guest at bible discussions, seminars and retreats, as well as faith sharing sessions and celebrations.

He said that he has come to understand a lot about the pain of separation that migrants feel and although he cannot solve their problems, he has discovered the power of lending a hearing ear and giving them a friend who speaks their language.

“Personally, I am happy to be here in Hong Kong serving different people and learning about different cultures. Hong Kong helps me a lot to be a more competent religious missionary. With this, I feel great,” he said.

“Even though there are many challenges, like language, going deeper into the Chinese culture and building relationships with the people, especially the local ones, it is an enriching experience,” he continued.

He said that he felt excited prior to his ordination, but also a bit afraid, as he knows that big responsibilities lie ahead of him.

“It is clear to me that there is no turning back once I prostrate myself before the bishop and realising my responsibilities makes me worry a bit. Yet, I firmly believe God will help me,” he said.

Reverend Venus thanked the many people who he said have supported and affirmed him in his vocation. He also acknowledged the important role his family played in giving him his initial formation in the faith.

He will be ordained a priest next year in his home parish in The Philippines. This time he hopes that all his brothers and sisters will be able to be present.

More from this section