CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

Print Version    Email to Friend
A visit to the Maryknoll Motherhouse - A series of reflections

How does a moment 
last forever? 
How can a story never die?
 
As I have been “pondering in my heart great things (Luke 2:15-20)” for the last few weeks since returning to Hong Kong, this Celine Dion song from the Beauty of the Beast movie came to mind.
 
As a Catholic, or perhaps for many Christians, I have pondered, on and off, about our belief in eternal life. How do we live on the earth as fully as possible, despite all the brokenness and sin of human beings? How are we to be in this world as salt and light, but not of this world (and pursue earthly desires)? How do we persist in love in a chaotic modern world with the hope of eternal life? 
 
Somehow I felt the need to return to the Motherhouse and, like so many times before, my alma mater (and its people) welcomed me with open arms to join this journey. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely” (Proverbs 3:5). My children taken of and my work somehow managed, I went.
 
The initial thoughts of how the trip was a good balance of external sightseeing and internal soul-searching, and the recollection of many instances where we saw Christ-like goodness and grace in many of our fellow pilgrims and Maryknoll missionaries have given way to deeper thoughts on life and the Maryknoll mission, and our walk with God as individuals and as a school. 
 
It is love we must hold onto
Never easy, but we try
Sometimes our happiness is captured
Somehow, our time and place stand still
Love lives on inside our hearts and always will
 
The story of the Maryknoll Society began when pioneers (like Bishop Walsh and Mother Mary Joseph) with a heart for the desolate foreign lands came together, despite no doubt the many needs of the local people of America, and pledged their lives and led many others to serve God through serving foreigners who may never in their lifetimes be able to repay the kindness and generosity of the Maryknoll missionaries. 
 
Amid all the plights of the human race, they came to China and suffered perhaps even more than a lot of the local people—overcoming physical discomfort, language and cultural barriers, loneliness, and the threat of religious persecution in an unstable political environment. 
 
The reason why Maryknoll Convent School and all our brother and sister schools could be set up was not because we had particular merit. It is perhaps hard to imagine, but we were once really a poor fishing village with streams of immigrants trying to put bread on the table. 
 
Personally, my paternal grandparents came to Hong Kong from Shanghai (Ningbo ancestry) and sent my six aunties and uncle all over the world (Brazil, Canada, the United States) in search for a stable place to settle. My maternal grandparents, natives of Taishan, came to Hong Kong then went to Chicago, the US, as poor immigrants in hope of a better life. We are those people that these missionaries sacrificed their own comfort and gave their lives to serve. 
 
(Chorus)
Minutes turn to hours, days to years then gone
But when all else has been 
forgotten
Still our song lives on
 
During this trip we were able to experience what Maryknoll was through reliving the retired sisters’ stories of mission and visiting the resting place of our founder, Mother Mary Joseph, and so many sisters who serve in faraway lands and above all, we experienced what Maryknoll is today. 
 
In the United Nations (Sister Marvie), refugee rescue work in Levos (Sister Ro), and the world (climate change talk by Sister Margarita)—the dynamic evolution of the Maryknoll sisters throughout time and the insistence on adapting and meeting local needs while recognising each and every sister’s unique God-given talents and passions is vibrant and well. 
 
And this is the signature Maryknoll spirit that touched my life as well as all the Maryknollers, past and present. 
 
(Verse 2)
Maybe some moments weren’t  so perfect
Maybe some memories not so sweet
But we have to know some bad times
Or our lives are incomplete
Then when the shadows  overtake us
Just when we feel all hope is gone
We’ll hear our song and know once more
Our love lives on
 
When we sang our school song at the end of our student performance to all the sisters who were able to join us, the solidarity of the Maryknoll family resonated and filled the room. Here I felt the heart of the Maryknoll spirit, everything emanated from an immense love of God because God loved us first. From there, we are equipped and called to serve. We are all missioners. 
 
As Sister Jeanne shared with me over breakfast, we are to spread God’s love for the lives we touch, so they know they are loved regardless of external accomplishments (or the seeming lack of).
 
(Verse 3)
How does a moment last forever?
How does our happiness endure?
Through the darkest of our troubles
Love is beauty, love is pure
Love pays no mind to desolation
It flows like a river through the soul
Protects, proceeds, and perseveres
And makes us whole
 
Coming back, I have a fuller understanding of the Maryknoll heritage. Beneath the accolades or impression of another famous school with good academic grades on a sprawling campus, what kind of wake are we leaving behind? 
 
The fullness, vibrancy, commitment to service, love of God and all people—how do we ensure our flame is burning brightly and lighting other lamps beyond 5 Ho Tung Road?
 
(Chorus)
Minutes turn to hours, days to years then gone
But when all else has been forgotten
Still our song lives on
 
During our trip, when the girls came back from their visit to the third and fourth floor sisters, one came to me secretly and suggested I go to comfort Miss Fung because she was greatly saddened by the deterioration of one of the sisters they were visiting. 
 
I was so proud that our students looked out for each other, showing empathy and love. 
 
The visits were bittersweet experiences for me, on one hand, I saw how age takes a toll on everyone eventually and yet, there was so much hope in all of the sisters’ eyes. They may have forgotten many things or were unable to sit up, but there was unmistakable joy when they shared their experiences on the field, spoke in different languages. There was love and compassion when they saw us—representing the foreign strangers whom they loved, and served on foreign soil. They have their eyes on eternity. And for the moments that we shared here on earth, we hold always in our hearts. 
 
How does a moment last forever
When our song lives on
 
 
Christina Lee