CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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A Jesuit thanksgiving for 90-year presence in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (SE): The Society of Jesus celebrated a thanksgiving Mass to mark the 90th anniversary of its establishment in Hong Kong at St. Ignatius Chapel in Wah Yan College, Kowloon, on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, December 3.

The first group of Jesuits arrived in the Pearl of the Orient in 1926. They were quickly joined early in the following year by reinforcements, making a starting group of six priests.

The thanksgiving Mass was celebrated by the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, together with the provincial of the Jesuit Chinese province, Father John Lee Hua.

Other priests to join the concelebrated Mass included Father Robert Ng Chi-fan, Father Thomas Leung Chung-yat and Father Beda Liu Chia-cheng, who were celebrating their 50th anniversaries as Jesuits; Father Seán Ó Cearbhalláin, who has reached his 60th anniversary; and Father Joseph Mallin, who was marking the 70th anniversary of his ordination.

Over 800 people, including the students and the alumni of the two Wan Yan Colleges in the city, attended the ceremony.

Father Ng said that the Jesuit thrust in mission is always to work with the lay people, which is well illustrated by the broad variety of endeavours that the order has been engaged in during its 90 years in the city.

In addition, Father Ng explained at the anniversary celebration that the Jesuits came to Hong Kong from Ireland 90 years ago following in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier. The community in Hong Kong became independent from the Irish province on 3 December 1966.

He pointed out that the Jesuits who are celebrating their anniversaries this year have worked in pastoral ministries that address the changing needs of Hong Kong at different stages of its history.

He also thanked the Hong Kong society and the Church for allowing the Jesuits to serve here.

As native English speakers, the diocese looked to the newly-arrived group to provide Catholic publications and in 1927 the first edition of The Rock rolled off the press.

It came out regularly until the Japanese took over the British colony in 1941 and the in 1989 Spirit magazine began publication in Chinese.

However, Jesuits never stopped writing and one of heir more famous contributors was Father Laszlo Ladany with his well-respected commentaries on developments in mainland China.

Nor was their involvement in media limited to print, as Father Ciaran Kane broke into radio with his long-running Midday Prayers, as well as becoming a member of the Religious Affairs Broadcasting and TV Advisory Committee in 1969.

In the 1970s, Xavier House in Cheung Chau opened its doors as a retreat and meeting centre, providing a much needed venue for Catholic people in the city to pray and study.

While the Jesuits are best known for their two Wah Yan Colleges in Wan Chai and Kowloon, as well as the Ricci University College, they provided the backbone of the staff at the South China Regional Seminary at the time of its opening in 1937.

The society has been involved in the Worker Priest Movement, the foundation of Amnesty International in Hong Kong, apostolates for street children, with the famed Shoeshine Boys Club, which morphed into a highly successful youth movement, and the care of refugees from China after World War II.

Father James Hurley was involved in the founding of the Young Christian Worker movement in Hong Kong

Throughout the Japanese occupation, the neutrality of Ireland allowed the society to keep one school open and although the group became splintered during the war and although two of its number were interned, all survived to serve again.

In 1931, there was a Jesuit lecturing in Hong Kong University and one became the first priest in the British world to hold an administrative job in government.

The worldwide Jesuit family movement, the CLC (Christian Life Community), has grown strong in Hong Kong under the careful nurturing of the society.

The Jesuit community also become involved in starting the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council in response to an aggressive campaign in the city called Two is Enough, promoting two-child only families in the 1960s.

In addition, Father Ng said that over 20 vocations have been nurtured in Hong Kong and half of them are from Wah Yan College, with one of the early ones becoming bishop of Guangzhou.

He added that he hopes more people will respond to the call of God to religious life and the Jesuits can strengthen their cooperation with the laity.

Cardinal Tong praised the order for its contribution in the field of education and its general support of the diocese. He especially expressed his appreciation for the Jesuits who worked on the staff of the seminary and their persistence in promoting vocations to the religious life.

The bishop of Hong Kong said the Jesuits have set a good example in education through their dedication and the freedom given to students which encourages creativity.

During the Umbrella Movement in the city in 2014, Father Stephen Tong Chak-lung wrote, “In the social movements of the past, our Wah Yan students with different views know how to respect and accommodate each other.”

Father Tong, the superior in Hong Kong, said the most important ministries and apostolates in the congregation seek to make friends with people in different fields, which he described as the Jesuit spirit that has been inherited from their predecessors, Father Matteo Ricci and St. Francis Xavier.

He added that friendships with others have helped the development of many kinds of insertion in missionary outreach.

Warren Chung Wai-leung, the principal of Wah Yan College in Kowloon, told the Kung Kao Po that the biggest contribution the Jesuits make to the lives of young people is their example of helping others, as evidenced by the way in which they have served Hong Kong society, as well as the people around them.

He believes their example has encouraged students to have courage in working to uphold justice.

With the continual innovative spirit of the society and its ever readiness to respond to new challenges, when the Jesuit centenary in the city is celebrated in 10 years time, the society will most certainly show a face of involvement in many new fields of human endeavour.

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