CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Remembering early missionaries in Sai Kung

HONG KONG (SE): The Diocesan Working Committee for Following Thy Way held a seminar, co-organised with the Centre for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on early Catholic missionary work in Sai Kung, at the university on February 2. 
 
The committee pointed out that early missionaries not only spread the gospel, but also helped residents of the area with their livelihood problems.
 
Cindy Chu Yik-yi, a professor of the History Department of the Hong Kong Baptist University, a member of the committee, told the Kung Kao Po that the committee had studied the defunct chapels in Sai Kung as well as the history of the villages. 
 
They also dealt with conservation projects and organised talks to look into the history of missionary work, and the development of nearby villages so that more people might discover what early Sai Kung was like and gain an understanding of its deep relationship with the Church.
 
Anthony Yeung Kam-chuen looked at how missionary work in Sai Kung was affected by its geographical location. He pointed out that, according to the records of the Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan (now the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), early missionaries travelled from Sai Kung to other spots in mainland China like Haifeng County and Huiyang District, via sea route using a junk named Star of the Sea. As a result most of Sai Kung’s chapels were located on the seaward side. 
 
Yeung said that at the time, the Sai Kung peninsula was not an ideal place for farming as it was too mountainous and with few flat areas. As a result, missionaries went to Hakka villages to help the villagers to improve their farming techniques to make better use of the geography—a number of dams were built in Sham Chung to gather water for farming—and villagers gradually became Catholics. 
 
Yuen Chi-wai, of the Centre for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, looked at the relationship between villagers and missionaries through the old photographs available on the Internet.
 
Yuen showed photographs of villages formerly located at what is now High Island Reservoir taken by missionaries who went there to look at the life of the farmers in 1950s to 1960s. He said that missionaries regularly went to Hakka villages to evangelise, distributed daily goods and offered education services. 
 
Missionaries from Protestant Churches also came by boat to bring daily necessities.
 
Yuen told Kung Kao Po that the committee plans to compile more oral history records and studies on old files to come up with more details about the history of the Catholic villages and gain new historical perspectives. 
 
Joseph Ma Ka-wai, president of the parish council of Sacred Heart Church, Sai Kung, spoke about the oral history records compiled by the parish; the stories of early Sai Kung from the viewpoint of old villagers. 
 
Ma recounted that while preparing for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of missionary work in Sai Kung five years ago, an inspection team was organised to visit three Catholic villages, St. Peter’s Village, Tai Ping Village and Ming Shun Village to get to know about the villagers lives.
 
Ma quoted some senior villagers who told him that it was a missionary who helped them fight the government for the space to build St. Peter’s Village, which was later managed by Caritas. 
 
Priests came regularly to offer Mass, while nuns came to teach children. The villagers were thankful for missionaries who really cared about their lives. 
 
They remembered that missionaries brought them daily necessities and helped to fix daily life problems such as drainage issues as well as water and electricity supply. 

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