CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Hong Kong plays host to conference on lay ministry in Chinese communities


HONG KONG (SE): A Conference on Sharing the Experience of Lay Ministry for Chinese-speaking communities from around the world was launched in Hong Kong on October 27 at the Caritas Hall in Caine Road.

The opening ceremony was followed by a Mass celebrated in the cathedral by the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of the Laity, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming; with vicar general, Father Pierre Lam Minh; chancellor, Father Lawrence Lee Len; programme group leader for the conference, Father Paul Kam Po-wai; and about 20 other priests.

Running under the theme, From serving to witnessing—promoting the spirit and light of Christ, the conference is part of the grand finale of a series of events and activities that were organised during the Year of the Laity, which began with a Mass at the Hong Kong Stadium on Mission Sunday in 2011.

In his welcoming address, Father Chan read a papal message to the 170 or so delegates to the conference, around 70 of whom are local, with about 50 from parishes and 20 volunteers, and the remainder coming from as far away as the United States of America, Canada, Mauritius, France, Italy, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, as well as close neighbours from Taiwan and Macau.

The message was signed by Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the secretary of state for the Vatican.

Dated October 9, Cardinal Bertone said that the pope was pleased to learn that an international assembly on the ministry of the laity would be held in Hong Kong and that he is praying that it will help strengthen the vocation of the laity, deepen people’s appreciation of the grace received in baptism and the dignity which is theirs, as they share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry in the Church.

The bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, who was attending the bishops’ synod in Rome, sent a message via video, which was broadcast at the opening ceremony.

Cardinal Tong explained that the priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry of the laity is spelled out in the Vatican II document, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

He said he has observed that many lay people actively take part in different ministries in the Church. However, he also pointed out that keeping the faith connected to real life can be a big challenge for people living in a highly secularised society.

He added that he has also observed that some people tend to rely too heavily on their pastoral leaders in their ministries, which can miss the point of the real mission of the laity as described in the Vatican II document.

The cardinal encouraged delegates to the conference to remember that coming to faith is a journey of self-sanctification in communion with the Trinity.

He added that the gifts and duties granted to people by the Holy Spirit are there to help them to build up the Church.

“Through this historical conference, all Chinese faith communities from around the world can freely share on the theme of the conference and their life experiences. It is a big grace from God,” the cardinal said.

“Our common goal is to implement our mission on evangelisation with the love of Jesus Christ,” he continued, adding that he hopes the conference can strengthen the delegates’ understanding of lay ministry and deepen their knowledge of Chinese faith communities around the world, so that they may make a greater contribution to the mission of the Church in society.

Father Chan gave a special welcome to the 100 delegates who had travelled from distant countries, as well as those who took a short trip.

He said that the average age of overseas participants was 60, while mainland China had a significantly lower median age of 40.

The average for the Hong Kong delegates sits in the upper echelons of the middle ground at 55.

Father Chan encouraged people to actively make friends with others and share their across-the-board life experiences, not just limiting their discussions to their Church ministries, but especially talk about living their relationship with Jesus Christ in the world.

He invited all the delegates to pray sincerely for one another, even though some may have not have had the chance to meet everyone at that stage.

At the end of the Mass, each participant was given a candle as a sign of living in the light of Jesus Christ. 

Annie Wong Kam-lan, from Louis Port, Mauritius, runs a faith centre in her home town.

She told the Sunday Examiner that although 90 per cent of the Chinese in Louis Port are Catholic, the Chinese-speaking community in her region faces an aging problem, as most young Chinese people do not speak the language much, but tend to join English- or French-speaking communities.

She said that she signed up for the conference because she wants to learn how Chinese-speaking Catholic communities develop and share their faith in different countries.

Wong said she will make a presentation to the conference, beginning with how the Catholic faith grew in Mauritius before the 1950s, when there were no Chinese missionaries in Louis Port and most of priests were European, up until today when most of the priests are locally-born Chinese.

Teresa Siaw Feng-er, is the chairperson of a bible society in Kuching, Malaysia. She said she expects to make some input on promoting the reading of the bible in a creative way.

She explained that Malaysian Catholics are becoming more and more interested in reading the bible and more of them are learning how to lead bible sharing sessions.

However, she noted that they find it difficult to get good input on how to relate the bible to life in Malaysia, where Catholics are a tiny minority of the population and priests tend to focus their attention purely on teaching theology.

The first phase of the conference began after the opening ceremony with visits to parishes and hospitals to get a general understanding of the different types of ministries that have been developed in Hong Kong.

On October 28, an integrated camp programme was kicked off in Cheung Chau. It included seminars, prayer sessions and briefings on the theme of each day.

Running up to November 1, the programme explored the nature of the mission of the laity in modern societies, how they can respond to needs in both their local communities and wider society, as well as give witness to the faith in their everyday lives.

Cardinal Tong offered a Mass of thanksgiving and presided over a commissioning ceremony on the last day of the camp, November 1.

In the second phase of the programme, 10 small groups made up from local Hong Kong delegates to the conference will visit Chinese-speaking religious organisations in other countries during November.

Group sharing will be organised upon their return to share their experiences of the vastly different challenges faced in various places.


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