CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Salesians farewell remarkable confrère


Hong Kong (SE): On March 9, his 86th birthday, Salesian Brother Joseph Ao Hoi-in died at around 10.30pm, at Pamela Youde Eastern Hospital, Chai Wan. 

His rector, sole surviving cousin and a friend were with him. Only two hours earlier, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong, with his young confrères had come to pray at his bedside. Brother Ao had been rushed to hospital that morning suffering from cardiac arrest.

Born in Macau in 1926, Brother Ao’s widowed mother saw to it that he was taken into the Instituto Salesiano. There, at the age of 13, he was baptised on 24 May 1939, the Feast of Mary Help of Christians. He was confirmed two years later on 31 January 1941, the Feast of St. John Bosco. 

In 1945, he entered Macau’s Salesian novitiate and made his first profession as a lay Salesian on 16 August 1946, the birthday of Don Bosco. 

After three years practical training at the Instituto Salesiano, he became the first Chinese lay Salesian to be sent abroad for studies. 

He was apprenticed in printing at Colle Don Bosco, Becchi, Castelnuovo, Italy, Don Bosco’s birthplace, finishing in 1953.

Upon his return to Macau, he worked for a year in the Instituto Salesiano as vice-director of the printing workshop. 

In 1954, he joined the Salesian founders of Tang King Po School in Tokwawan, setting up and heading the printing workshop for 27 years. 

In 1981, after the workshop closed down, he was put in charge of Macau’s juvenile reformatory in Coloane, taking over from Father Matthew Tchong sdb, who had fallen victim to cancer. 

In 1984, Brother Ao was transferred to St. John Bosco parish, in Taipei, Taiwan, where he was the economer (administrator) and took care of the local kindergarten. 

From 1989 to 1996, he was administrator of the Salesian Missionary House in Shaukeiwan, but took time off to help the Shanghai diocese reopen the Guangqi Printing Press in Qibao. 

He then lent his services to the Caritas printing press in Caine Road. From 1995, he was a member of the Hong Kong Diocesan Sacred Music Commission and, from 2001, he was also spiritual director of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocesan Choir—two posts he held until his death.  

In late 2006, Brother Ao was admitted to Casa Braga, the community that cares for elderly Salesians in need of medical attention. 

Afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, he slowly declined, in the last two years communicating only through rare words and a frequent beautiful smile.

A gifted musician, actor and painter, wherever he went and worked, Brother Ao put his talents to good use. Besides ensuring high quality work came out from his printing press, he organised and took part in dramas, as well as choral recitals and instrumentals, some of which he wrote. 

Throughout his life, he lived the truth of Don Bosco’s words: “Games, outings, drama and music are powerful means for the education of the young.”

A vigil Mass for Brother Ao will be celebrated by Father Simon Lam Chung-wai, the Salesian provincial, on Sunday, March 18 at 8.00pm, at St. Anthony’s church, Pokfulam. 

The funeral Mass will be celebrated the next morning at 10.00am by Cardinal Zen at Christ the King Chapel, Causeway Bay. His body will be buried at St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery, Happy Valley.


…wherever he went and worked, Brother Ao put his talents to good use


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