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Wilkommen im Hong Kong…

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, together with his collaborators paid a friendly (and pastoral) visit to Hong Kong as part of the partnership that has linked the two dioceses for more than half a century. During his stay, he had a chance to visit some of the works of the Hong Kong diocese and exchange with other people directly linked to the partnership. In fact, the two dioceses are called “sisters”. As far as we are concerned, the focus will be more on youth ministry, or more precisely his gathering with some young people at the Catholic Diocese Centre on April 6.
 
It all started with a call from Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, the parish priest of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and organiser of the Bishop Overbeck’s pastoral tour here in Hong Kong. He wanted us to organise an encounter with the bishop of Essen, with young people as protagonists of the gathering. 
 
Yes, it is also the extension of the year of youth and that mattered a lot. According to him, the gathering was important for the following reasons: to exchange about youth ministry, to know more about the state of the Church in Essen (particularly on the area of youth ministry) and, together, to see what could be done in to strengthen the bond between the young people of both dioceses. 
 
Eleven young people attended the gathering and had the chance to hear from Bishop Overbeck who was given the opportunity to speak first on the reason behind his visit to Hong Kong and the pastoral direction of his diocese. Which he did with joy! He talked about parish works and vocations, the history of the diocese and its socio-economic situation, the relationship between Catholics and other Christian denominations, without falling to mention the “post-ecumenical” situation in which many people find themselves. For those people, what matters is the name of Jesus that binds them together rather than denominations that often try to build barriers between the people. A pastoral reality.
 
As to youth ministry, the reality in Essen is similar to that of many western countries where more and more young people do not come to Church anymore. They even grow up with the awareness that “one can be better or do good without belonging to a faith.” An alarming situation that needs to be addressed in a more concrete way, with a youth ministry that is more and more in touch with the realities of this time. 
 
But exceptions always exist, and devoted young people can be seen here and there, rendering good service in many different countries around the world, particularly in Africa and South America. And the fruits of these experiences are vital to the building of their identity as Christians. 
 
Speaking on behalf of the Diocesan Youth Commission, I presented the main aspects of our youth ministry, especially in areas such as formation and youth development, parish-deanery cooperation, school ministry, major youth festivals and the reality of non-Chinese youth. A work that needs time, presence, mutual care and patience. 
 
The young people present had also the opportunity to speak and exchange based on their own experiences. Throughout their sharing, we could feel their longing for a Church that listens more to them, a Church that connects with them in helping them connect to her, a society that gives the chance to people to truly be happy, a housing policy that is affordable for all, not only for the rich people, the need for more companions than “teachers” and the like.
 
Although the meeting was not a forum or a moment to come up with decisions or guidelines, we all felt that a chance to listen to others is always a moment of growth in one way or another. Many of the young people present that day had a “Essen experience,” meaning to say a stay or an exposure in Essen.
 
Why not create more opportunities for the young people of our two dioceses to come together as one and impact the world in which they are living? We felt the need to do so and this will be followed-up with God’s help.
 
A Taizé prayer was organised to put ourselves in the holy presence of God and to offer him the future of our partnership. A pizza mini-party concluded the lovely exchange. Ad multos annos!
 
 
 
Rev. Dominique Mukonda, CICM
Chairperson, The Diocesan Youth Commission

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