CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Long years of service to the people of God celebrated

HONG KONG (SE): At an afternoon tea reception held in the Caritas Community Hall in Caine Road prior to a Mass of thanksgiving to acknowledge the long years of service to the people of Hong Kong of brothers, sisters and priests marking their 25th, 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries, the bishop of the city, John Cardinal Tong Hon, said he has great esteem for them.

At the celebration held on December 8, the feast day of the diocesan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the cardinal himself was marking his own golden anniversary of ordination and, in a landmark achievement, 103-year-old Father Joseph Mallin sj and Salesian Father Gaetano Nicosia reached their 70th anniversaries.

All up, 45 jubilees were marked, with two priests and five sisters marking 70 years; two priests, one brother and eight sisters celebrating their diamond anniversaries; six priests, one brother and 13 sisters with a golden anniversary; and three priests and four sisters their silver anniversaries.

The 200 or so people present were treated by the Raimondi College brass orchestra to a recital of a contemporary piece called, Choreography, composed by Robert Sheldon, before Cardinal Tong cut the cake donated for the occasion by the Serra Club, a group dedicated to the promotion of vocations to the religious life.

In his congratulatory message, Cardinal Tong expressed his sincere esteem for the jubilarians and thanked them for their dedicated service to the people and constant fidelity to the Church.

“May God reward you well for your fidelity and service to the people and the Church,” he said.

He added that as a diocese, we need to promote a culture of vocation that encourages sharing in the religious life, citing the bright smile and big hug that characterised the life of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who was canonised a saint by Pope Francis this year, as being an ideal model.

He also reminisced about his own ordination in Rome in 1966, noting that he was among the first group ordained by Pope Paul VI after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.

He wished the jubilarians well and simply prayed that God may be with them every day.

In a packed cathedral, Scheutt Father Pierre Devos, who like Cardinal Tong was marking his golden anniversary of ordination, spoke of the history of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, which was defined as a doctrine by Pope Pius IX in 1854, not as a result of a council, but as an affirmation of the belief of the people.

He noted that prior to the pope’s proclamation, in 1846 the local seminary in Hong Kong was named the Immaculate Conception Centre, and quickly after the proclamation of the doctrine in 1883, the foundation stone of the cathedral, dedicated to the same mystery, was blessed.

“Our God is a God of mystery and the God of the mystery of human history over the centuries,” Father Devos said.

In reflecting on religious vocation, he cited the response of Mary to the angel at the Annunciation, “Let it be done unto me according to your word,” which he described as being a response to the fidelity of God to his people throughout human history.

He added that for believers, God is the God of our personal history as well.

“But tonight helps us to remember significant moments of our personal history that remind us to have gratitude,” he said.

Reflecting on his own journey, he pointed out that life changing moments do not have to be earthshaking events. He told how the principal of his school once asked him straight out if he wanted to be a priest.

Shocked and taken aback, he blurted out an unqualified, “No,” but explained that the simple incident changed the history of his whole life.

“For this I give thanks tonight,” he said, as he encouraged all present to remember and give thanks for the grace with which God has lavished our lives.

Let us simply pray, “May it be done unto me according to your word,” he concluded.

Another golden jubilarian, Sister Bernadette Yuen Wai-wan, spoke of how she was nurtured by the Sisters of the Precious Blood during her school days.

She shared that she was moved by their dedication and after graduating from university she sought a job as a teacher in one of their schools.

A year later, she applied to join their ranks, which, although is now more than half a century ago it is still clear in her memory. She added that the experience of her life and her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience have cared for her in this materialistic world and helped her to share what she has with others.

Sister Yuen added that she is always highly aware of the example of the sacrificial love of Jesus and believes that if we hold tight to our ideals and, if the aims in our lives are clear, with the help of prayer we can overcome any difficulty.

Responding on behalf of the people of God in the diocese, Rosa Lai Yuk-fai, the president of the Central Council of Catholic Laity, told the jubilarians, “We are touched by your witness and your persistence in your vocation. It helps us to be faithful to call of God in our vocation.”

Lai added that it is also a witness to everyone in the Church to be sensitive to the grace of God our Father.

While the decline in the numbers of those celebrating silver jubilees reflect both the drop in the vocation rate in the 1980s, as well as the later age at which those who do take on religious life make their decisions, the evening was a good witness to the joy that characterises the person of those who have served over a long period of time.

The evening ended with a celebratory dinner for the jubilarians.

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