CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Serving with Bishop Michael Yeung – Sharing from my heart

I knew Bishop Yeung for many years. The bishop and I joined Caritas-Hong Kong in the same year: he as Director of Education Services while I started as a lecturer at the then-Caritas Francis Hsu College (CFHC), now the Caritas Institute of Higher Education (CIHE). My long history of working for the bishop began with my teaching in CFHC, where I had the honour of occasionally drafting his speeches and other documents in English, in particular, those related to the college. 
 
Though I was not well acquainted with the bishop, he at least had an idea of who I was at the time. Subsequently, following the development of CFHC into the CIHE, the bishop became the chairperson of the Institute’s council and also assisted in chairing the meetings of the Institute’s Board of Governors. 
 
Meanwhile, by virtue of my position as the Institute secretary, I maintained my cooperation and contact with the bishop at work throughout those years. 
 
In September 2016, Bishop Yeung invited me to be his secretary and I perceived it as God’s calling for me to serve the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. After pondering over my hesitations and with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, I resolved to accept this challenging job.
 
Bishop Yeung used to give the impression of being cool and aloof, with rarely a smile on his face. Even as his secretary, I could not help but feel being at a remote distance from him, despite my physical proximity to him. The bishop once cited the example of someone knocking on his door and going into his office to explain to me why he looked serious and annoyed: given his concentration in handling the paperwork on his desk, his intuitive facial expression would remain unchanged, that is to say, solemn and unsmiling, while looking up. 
 
I must say that in reality, behind those misleading looks of indifference and annoyance, the bishop was genuinely tender-hearted, loving and caring. 
 
As the good shepherd chosen by God to look after his flock in Hong Kong, Bishop Yeung cared about the well-being of everyone around him. He often reminded me not to work overtime too much, as this would result in fatigue and exhaustion and would adversely affect my health. 
 
I recall when I was busy working on the final touch-up of both the English and Chinese versions of the Pastoral Letter for Advent 2018 in early November 2018, I accidentally had a fall and requested time off during office hours to go for physiotherapy treatment. The bishop’s reply was simply: “Your well-being first, every other thing comes next.”
 
In another instance, the bishop, for the sake of fulfilling my birthday wish and subsequently keeping his promise, made a great effort to smile at me every time when I knocked on his door and entered into his office. I could understand and truly appreciated his utmost efforts in being an understanding, considerate and sympathetic superior, and felt very grateful and pleased.
 
Having accepted the challenge to serve as Bishop Yeung’s assistant at work, I undertook to face all confrontations and hazards alongside him. As expected, I often had to handle some rather difficult people and issues, which in fact tested my ability to adapt to changes and flexibility to cope with diversity. 
 
I recall a recent case of an elderly parishioner who kept calling the bishop’s office to voice out her grievances and make a series of unreasonable requests. These repeated phone calls with endless grumblings did cause a certain degree of disruption to the progress of work at the office. 
 
Upon learning of and understanding the difficult position of the office staff, including myself, Bishop Yeung took the initiative to squeeze some time off his hectic work schedule and called this parishioner twice. Not only did he address the complaints and respond to the requests, but he also explained and admonished this lonesome parishioner to discontinue calling the office, in the hope of barring such calls from continuing and becoming a cause of nuisance. 
 
Evidently, the bishop was insightful enough to know what I had in mind, that I wished him to speak to, comfort and put this elderly parishioner at ease. 
 
Once again, I was truly appreciative of the his deep insight and helpfulness, and he was certainly an observant and shrewd supervisor.
 
Bishop Yeung was dedicated to and loved his work, to the extent of spending innumerable and sleepless nights over his voluminous diverse tasks. He often used his mobile phone to edit and amend his documents in the dormitory at night. 
 
His passion and dedication to work could be witnessed in his preparation of the Pastoral Letter for Advent 2018, starting with his instruction to me to write up the preliminary draft of the English version in early September. From then, the bishop had repeatedly edited, amended, refined and improved on the English draft until shortly before mid-November, when he finally considered both the English and Chinese final versions acceptable. 
 
The bishop’s serious and earnest attitude to work indeed commanded respect, and no doubt could be a good example for young people. His excellent language proficiency in Chinese and English were commendable and I deem myself fortunate to have been blessed with the opportunity to take part in the writing of the draft in the preliminary stage, followed by refining and finalising the draft in its final stage. 
 
It was from the bishop’s superb command of both languages that I progressively enhanced my proficiency in the two languages and acquired invaluable benefit from this experience.
 
I believe that Bishop Yeung has now been relieved of his labours and burdens on earth as he has returned to his heavenly home and rests peacefully in the arms of God. He should no longer be baffled by the suffering and torment of sickness and pain, and should now be laughing merrily and heartily in heaven.
 
Bishop Yeung, thank you for your labour, toil and hard work for the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese all your life, and also your selfless sacrifice and significant contributions to the diocese. We will never forget your righteousness, diligence, sincerity, perseverance, courage and profound love of the flock that required your loving care, dedicated service and meticulous attention. 
 
I sincerely thank our Lord for you and will be in loving memory of you, now and forever!
 
Li Pak-wan

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