CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Finding respite in difficult situations

HONG KONG (SE): At a retreat day organised by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for the Disabled, parents or caretakers of children with special needs were encouraged to think of ways to seek real happiness without the dampening effect of past experience or materialistic dreams.
Held at St. Andrew’s parish in Tseung Kwan O on November 30, the gathering heard Sister Laura Watt Shuk-mee say that parents or caretakers of children with special needs easily become more sensitive or emotional due to fatigue from the struggle they face on a daily basis.
She said it is important for them to calm down and recommended meditation, prayer and delving into spirituality as a way of opening their hearts to see the real reason for their emotion.
Instead of giving vent to their feelings, parents and caretakers were encouraged to think of ways to improve their situation step by step, as well as, above all, praying for help from God.
Sister Watt said people’s responses to different situations vary according to their value system and character, which have been formed gradually through the experiences of their childhood.
She shared about an emotional programme for happiness put together by Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk in the United States of America, which opened up an in-depth discussion on this aspect.
Father Keating believes that the personal value system is developed subconsciously during childhood. For example, unfulfilled security needs or deprivation of affection as a baby can lead a child to repress those painful, traumatic emotional experiences in the subconscious as a survival mechanism.
The child may also develop compensatory systems in which they try to find happiness in gratification for one of those three instinctive needs.
As a result, people who have suffered childhood emotional neglect or even trauma may feel insecure, be more eager to control others or have an disproportionate need to be respected by others.
Father Keating encourages people to let go of the past and develop a way of looking for happiness that is not affected by memory or the value systems of others.
Sister Watt then led a meditation session in which people were invited to recall the negative memories in their childhood and pray for healing grace from God.
She also suggested some practical ways of enjoying happiness, by using the sense of humour, listening to music, smiling, eating healthy food, talking with good friends, trying to understand their spouse, having gratitude for everything, pursuing hobbies even in later life or making friends with younger people to maintain intellectual and physical vigour.
A prayer session was an integral part of the day and an opportunity to ask for the strength and wisdom to take care of children with special needs, as well as other patients.
A sharing session followed in which people were encouraged to share about the joy of taking care of their children with special needs.
Gracy Tong Ka-lai, from the Faith and Light Community, who has a 23-year-old daughter with intellectual difficulties, said taking care of her daughter has given her strength and wisdom.
“I needed to consult a lot of professionals about her problems and look for ways to help her. The process gave me courage, patience and knowledge. I grew stronger after she was born,” Tong shared.
The grateful mother said she has faith that God will assign someone to help when there is a problem, as God knows that she cannot manage everything alone. She can also find comfort and joy in her community.
However, she said the biggest joy comes from seeing improvement in her daughter, who is now more willing to say hello to other people during Church activities instead of hiding in the doorway.
Man Tim-an, who has an autistic 19-year-old son, shared that when his son was six, the boy insisted on attending the Saturday Mass at St. John the Baptist in Kwun Tong and sitting at a particular spot in the third row.
Having communication difficulties, the boy pointed to the bible and the map of Kwun Tong on a rainy Saturday, reminding the family of the importance of attending the Mass, rain or shine.
Looking back, Man found his son’s stubbornness interesting, as it somehow showed his perseverance in pursuing faith.
Man said he does not view his autistic son as a burden. He also urges parents of children with special needs not to have negative thoughts, as they only make all situations worse.
Man explained that from his own point of view, his son has enabled him to experience another way of life, a life testing his patience as well as his faith, a life of developing his sense of humour and a life not affected by worldly values.
The retreat day concluded with a Mass celebrated by the vicar general, Father Benedict Lam Cho-ming, from the Diocesan Commission for Pastoral Services to the Disabled.

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