CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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A vocation camp Salesian style

On August 3, I joined the Salesian vocation director, Father Carlos Cheung Sam-yiu, together with two young Salesians and two other aspirants on the Salesian Hong Kong-Macau Joint Vocation Camp.
Organised by the vocation offices of Hong Kong and Macau region, a total of 20 young people attended the summer gathering in Macau, which ran under the theme Love and Service.
During our three days together we shared our experiences and insights on vocation discernment, while our imaginations were prompted through discovering something of the rich missionary history of the former Portuguese outpost.
The Hong Kong group met its Macau hosts at Instituto Salesiano, the motherhouse of Salesians in the China Province. The young people from Hong Kong and Macau greeted each other and attended a Eucharist celebrated by Father Joseph Chow Pak-fai, from the vocation office in Macau and rector at Instituto Salesiano.
Father Cheung then took the students on a visit to St. Joseph’s Seminary, where they were introduced to the history of the diocese of Macau and of the missionaries who served the academic and education world in various ways.
One of those was Father Guilherme Schrid, a highly respected Salesian and renowned composer and conductor. Father Cyril Law, whose vocation started out as a Salesian aspirant and is now the assistant parish priest at the cathedral, took the group on a tour of the premises, which is known as the Church of the Nativity of Our Lady, and then on a visit to the bishop’s office.
After night prayer, Father Chow emphasised the importance of the missionary spirit of service. He highlighted the rules for all missionaries set down by St. Luís Versiglia, which highlight devotion to the Eucharist and Mary Help of Christians as being the essence for the preaching of the gospel in China.
On the following day, the group went to the Escola D. Luís Versiglia, a boarding school founded by Father Gaetano Nicosia, where the members of the group bought and served lunch for each other as an experience of service with love.
At the school, Father Norbert Tse Shiu-chung, the rector, warmly welcomed the young people telling them how St. Luís became the leader of the first Salesian missionary group to come to China.
Father Tse then took them to the adjacent Associacao de Juventide Lar Salesiano Dom Bosco, the dormitory for Escola D. Luís Versiglia and, at the same time, a youth centre providing adventure-based experiences for young people.
A Mass was celebrated by Father Cheung at the beautiful Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, which was built by Father Nicosia for people suffering from Hansen’s disease.
Father Cheung related how Father Nicosia had taken care of them and provided education for their children, who were neglected and abandoned by society.
He explained the importance of self-sacrifice and being less self-centred by imitating the missionary zeal of St. Versiglia and the simplicity of Father Nicosia.
Then the young group also visited the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the parish priest, Father Domingos Un Wai-meng, a Salesian old boy, explained that constant and fervent prayer lies at the heart of discerning a vocation.
Then it was back to the Instituto Salesiano for a bit of basketball and relaxation with the Salesians, after which Father Cheung talked about the relationship between love and service in discerning a vocation, which he said is rooted in our Christian identity.
These three elements reinforce each other and lead us to listen to the will of God and the needs of others.
On the final day the group spent time reflecting on the experience of the camp and Father Chow again stressed the importance of prayer and seeking the guidance of spiritual directors in order to make a proper discernment of vocation.
Using the example of the first Salesian missionaries that came to China, he said that without their sacrifice and hard work, the China Province could not have been established and the Salesian schools in Macau would not have existed.
He went on to say that the love and service of Don Bosco is not only to be found in the pages of books, but continues through the work of the spiritual sons of Don Bosco.
It was then time to head home and the Hong Kong delegation enjoyed a delicious lunch after which the group attended the installation Mass of Bishop Michael Ming-cheung in Hong Kong on August 5.
The Salesian Hong Kong-Macau Joint Vocation Camp marked the successful culmination of the series of camps held in Hong Kong and Macau throughout the school year 2016 and 2017.
A new series of camps beginning in September is scheduled for the coming school year.
It is a great opportunity for young people to deepen their discernment on the unique vocation bestowed upon them by Our Lord Jesus Christ to serve with love in holiness and to foster a culture of vocation through the various charisms of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
• Joseph Ip

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