CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 June 2017

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Tai O celebrates 80 years of life in faith

What does the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help mean? Not many may know! Father Joseph Ng Chi-yeun SDB explained the tradition behind the icon to a gathering a pilgrims in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel in Tai O during its 80th anniversary celebrations on May 20.
 
The image, an icon painted on wood, originated around the 13th century. The icon depicts our Blessed Mother Mary, under the title Mother of God, holding the Child Jesus.
 
The Archangel Michael, in the left corner, is holding a spear, a wine-soaked sponge and the crown of thorns, while the Angel Gabriel, in the right corner, holds the cross and the nails.
 
The intent of the artist was to portray the Child Jesus contemplating the vision of his future passion. The anguish he feels is shown by the loss of one of his sandals.
 
Nevertheless, the icon also conveys the triumph of Christ over sin and death, symbolised by the yellowy background that appears to be a golden colour, a sign of the glory of the resurrection and the manner in which the angels hold the instruments of the passion—the spear, the crown of thorns, the cross and the nails.
 
Father Ng went on to explain that by grasping the hand of his Blessed Mother, the Child Jesus in the icon is seeking comfort from her, as he sees the instruments of his passion.
 
The position of Mary’s hands—both holding the Child Jesus and presenting him to us—conveys the reality of our Lord’s incarnation, that he is true God who became also true man.
 
Today, this image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is housed in the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome. 
 
In 1867, when the image was being carried in a solemn procession through the streets, a young child was cured, the first of many recorded miracles attributed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
 
As early as the 1920s, there was a Catholic Community in Tai O and a small church building was raised at this location around 1923, but it was not designated as a church.
 
The building was then destroyed in a typhoon. It was redeveloped in 1937 and this time it was designated as a church and and dedicated as  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel.
 
It is now part of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Cheung Chau.
 
Father Edmondo Bruzzone pime became the first parish priest and remained at the parish until 1941.
 
On 11 June 1962, the new church building in Tai O was blessed and Father Nicola Ruggiero pime became the rector.
 
In 1965, Tai O and Cheung Chau were separately designated as independent districts and on 1 July 1979 the Perpetual Help Chapel was erected as an independent parish. The priests residing in Tai O also took care of a Mass centre in Mui Wo, but later it was put under the purview of the parish of the Epiphany in Mui Wo on 8 September 1980.
 
Other than the missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, the Catholic Community in Lantau has at various tomes also been served by priests from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Society of the Divine Word, as well as the diocese of Hong Kong.
 
The parish is grateful to those who have been willing to come and be with the community and since 1 November 2015, the Claretian Missionary priests have undertaken the pastoral care of the Catholic community in Tai O.
 
Holy Eucharist is celebrated in Cantonese in the Chapel at 10.00am on every Saturday and there is also a weekly gathering for bible sharing every Tuesday.
 
Over 50 pilgrims from different parishes in Hong Kong joined the parish community to celebrate and pray together on May 20, to mark the landmark occasion.