Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Christmas in the fishing village of Tai O

 Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel in Tai O has a small Catholic community in the peripheries of Hong Kong. A 45 minutes bus drive either from Tung Chung or from Mui Wo in Lantau Island would take one to the Chapel in this fishing village. The chapel belongs to the Epiphany Parish, Mui Wo and has a weekly mass at 10 am on Saturdays. 

Although few in numbers and in their old age, Catholics in Tai O did something extraordinary in this Christmas for the people living in the vicinity and for hundreds of visitors who come from far and near. They recreated the nativity scene, utilizing the entire premises of the chapel.

A huge Christmas crib was set up at the entrance with life-size statues at the manger, giving a photo op even for the passers by. Hundreds of flowerpots decorated the premises, giving the chapel a face-lift and festive ambience. A large collection of religious articles such as holy medals, rosaries, statues of saints, t-shirts with religious themes and spiritual books are on display for grab. The small chapel in the first floor hosts the main crib, complete with angel flying down on the manger!

A curious addition to the elaborate decorations this year was a display of enlarged images of Christmas postal stamps from around the world.  Numerous counties in the past have issued postal stamps with the nativity theme. Explaining the display, Claretian Father Jojo Ancheril said that one of their priests had a large collection of Christmas stamps and the idea was to display how the nations around the world celebrated Christmas in the history. Hundreds of tourists, especially those from around the world who visit Tai O every day during the Christmas holidays found it amusing to see these rare stamps on display, he added.

The Community organised two Christmas gatherings during the season, one for the people of the locality – especially the elderly of Tai O and the second one for the alumni of Wing Cho primary school which was closed down in 2003 after serving the community for over six decades.

Other than the weekly Mass on every Saturdays, the Chapel organises overnight Eucharistic adorations on the first Fridays of every month. Although the Catholic presence in the region is very nominal, various prayer groups and religious organisations frequent to the chapel for a day of seminars and recollections. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

PBF proudly associated with the 200 Million Copies of the Bible

200 Million Copies of the Bible printed in China

Amity Printing at Namging (Nanjing), China, the largest Bible Printing Press in the world scaled yet another milestone on 11/11 this year when it rolled out the 200 millionth copy of the Bible printed in its state-of-the-art facility. Amity printing is a joint project of the Amity Foundation, a local Christian NGO, and United Bible Societies (UBS).
Bible printed for the Bible Society of South Africa had the privilege to be 200 millionth copy. The press began operating in 1987 and Amity Printing Company (APC) was established in 1988. An association of 145 national Bible societies, Amity Printing produced its first copy of “the Good Book” in 1987.

Today, Amity Printing operates with high speed, state-of-the-art printing equipment, run and operated by 500 staff. The new 85,000 square meters facility is capable of printing more than 20 million copies of the Bible a year, and is currently producing an average of one copy per second!

Amity has printed Bibles in 130 languages. While the printing company produced 85 million Chinese Bibles in its 33 years of history, over 114 million bibles were in foreign languages.
Pastoral Bible Foundation, under the umbrella of Claret Publishing Group, has printed and published over four million copies of Bibles with Amity Printing Company in 12 different languages including Chinese, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Tagalog.
Fr.  Alberto Rossa with the Amity Printing Company's recognition for "All Weather Friendship" with Claretian Communications, Philippines, together with with Fr. Jose Cherukara, Allan and Bob. 
Fr. Alberto Beto Rossa, Director of Pastoral Bible Foundation and Fr Jose Cherukara participated in the celebrations for the 200 millionth Copy Bible in Nanjing.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Cantata -2019

Fr Jijo and Team organizes Cantata -2019

The International Choral Singing Festival of  Macau, named Cantata Macau is coming out with its 4th edition from Nov. 8-10, 2019 in Macau. This year the festival will feature competitions between reputed choirs from Asia with a Grand Prix award of 50000 MOP. The festival will open at 2 PM on 8th November in Fatima Church and conclude by 7.30 on 11thNovember at Saint Paul School Auditorium.

File Picture of  Cantata 2018
The Festival is organized by Saint Augustine’s Choir, Macau with their Spiritual Director, Fr. Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF. Running on the 4th consecutive year, the festival is now sponsored by different Government agencies of Macau, viz., the Tourism and Cultural Departments and The Macau Foundation.
FR. Jijo Kandamkulathy
The idea of the choral festival germinated with a need to re-signify Macau as a place of spiritual heritage rather than as a haven of gamblers. The gambling industry does not represent the people living here. Gambling, rather entertains the people who visit this place. What would truly represent Macao would be its spiritual heritage with long tradition of Catholic faith here. With the talent at hand, and the Catholic World Heritage sites here, the organizers found choral singing would truly represent Macau’s Catholic past and its true spiritual nature.

The festival has now become a platform for people from different cultures to meet and share their music experiences. This is an enriching experience for the participants themselves. The attendance of schools in the event has increased over the years indicating the educational value of such international events everywhere.

This year, 17 acclaimed choirs in the international choral circuit from 8 different countries will participate in the event. The joint symphony of the festival participated by all the choirs will be conducted by the maestro from Macao, Mr. Barrie Briones.

This has become an event awaited by the connoisseurs of music in Macao. 

“Although I did not quite understand the meaning, the heart rending Philipino song ‘Anak,’ stood out in rendition and performance (last year). I noticed that some Philipinoes sitting near me sobbed loudly during the performance of the song. Eventually, I learned from others that the song depicted the heart-melting story of the parents lamenting for a son lost to drug addiction. That was a song with social relevance as well,” said Mrs. Judy, one of the guests last year.
With Bishop Stephen Lee, Bishop of Macau in 2018
“The choirs also brought in the mood of Christmas in early December itself. Aptly, they added some world famous carol songs to the event. We were smoothly elevated to the Christmas mood. I did not realize how the song accompanied us home us until, I heard my little son hum the tune over and over again,” said another participant last year.

One of the highlights of this year is the electronic booking system. Those who want to participate in the event can scan the QR code and register their attendance online. The festival also features a competition named the most popular choir. The guests can vote for the best choir in their judgement by on their own mobiles and an award will be given to the choir that earns the highest votes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Two Weeks in Tai O

October 16 to 28 in Tai O (one of our chapels under Mui Wo Epiphany Parish - Hong Kong), 21 sisters participated in Two-Week Biblical Course on Jesus of Nazareth. The program was a joint-venture between Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sisters of Our Lady Queen of Angels. The sisters belonged to two groups: a local congregation and consecrated virgins.

The course was divided into the following parts:
(1) The Word of God before incarnation;
(2) The mystery of Incarnation;
(3) The Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry;
(4) The Judea period - journey towards Jerusalem; Passion and the Resurrection;
(5) Conclusion - the mystery of Ascension.
There was also time for the sisters to relax, pray, avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and visit few places around in Hong Kong - Cheung Chau and the Trappist Monastery.

The problems they face are the following:
1. Overworked - all of them mostly stay in parishes and seldom visit their communities; not much time for personal prayer and spiritual development;
2. They have lesser opportunities to participate in formation courses t
3. Bible remains still a “closed book” - few of them are fully familiar with it and biblical literacy
among laity seems to be low; do not know how to read it and pray with it

Seeing their eagerness to learn the Bible was truly touching. Despite so much biblical materials available online, nothing replaces teacher-students relationship. It is not just how much you know about the Bible but how much you are passionate about the Book. They need teachers who would pass on the passion for the Bible to their students

Thursday, October 24, 2019

149th Death Anniversary of Father Founder

Claret Feast 2019 in Hong Kong

Launching of <喜樂之源——四福音及注釋>Four Gospels and Commentaries in Chinese in the Extra Ordinary Mission Month 

The Feast of St. Claret was celebrated on 24 October in the Claretian House in Shatin with a group of close friends and associates of Claretians. Fathers from Macau and Hong Kong communities hosted the event which began with a Mass at 6.30 pm followed by dinner. 

At the end of the Mass, Fr. Rossa introduced the reprint of 
<喜樂之源——四福音及注釋>, published for the purpose of the Missionary Month and distributed copies of them to all the participants, reminding their responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus. 

Antony Claret was born in the year 1807 in a small town called Sallent in Spain. His parents were God-fearing Catholics and grew up in faith. His Father was textile manufacturer and he wanted young Antony to take care of the family’s business. 

Antony was given special training in textile industry. As any other youth of his time, he nurtured ambitions to become a successful business man. But during his training period in the city of Barcelona, some special events made him to change is attention from becoming a business man to do business for God. Once he was saved from being drowned in the sea and he believed that it was Blessed Mother who helped him to get back to the shore. He had a special love and devotion to Blessed Mother. So, in his later years, he added the name of Mary to his own name – so he is known as Antony Mary Claret. He decided to dedicate his life for the gospel and so left his studies in textile industry midway.

He joined the seminary to become a priest.  After becoming a priest, he realised that most of the priests were remaining in their parishes and involving in numerous activities, but there were not enough priests to preach the Word of God. Therefore, he together with five other priests began a community of preachers on 16 July 1849. He named this community as the “Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” In 2019, we have completed the 170th year of the founding of the Congregation.
Father Claret later became an Archbishop and and served in the far off mission diocese of Cuba. Archbisop Claret was a powerful preacher, confessor and social reformer and miracle worker.

He wrote 100s of books and booklets and distributed 
among the people to read, for two reasons: First, he said, “if people do not have good books to read, they would turn to bad ones.” Second, he said, “I cannot go every place to bring the good news of Christ but my literature can reach all the places that I cannot go.” 

Today, for example, we cannot personally be present in China for 
example.  But We are distributing/selling over 120000 copies of the Daily Gospel in China every year. Our Chinese New Testament and other books are reaching numerous dioceses in the mainland.

So today Claretians 
are involved in the Ministry through Media and the Claret group of Publications have 12 publishing houses around the world, including the one in Macau. Fr. Rossa coordinates the works of all these publishing houses of the Congregation around the world.

Archbishop Claret died on 24 October 1870. Next year this day,
will be 150th death anniversary of our Father Founder. Archbishop
Claret was canonised in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.

After the death of the Founder, the members of the community adopted name of the Founder as the alternative name for the community and started to be called as Claretians. Thus we are known in two names: Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Claretians.

Today over 3000  Claretian missionaries – priests and brothers - are involved in the ministry of spreading the message of the Gospel in 67 countries around the world. As we all know, 3000 is not a significant number, unless with the selfless contributions of 1000s of mission partners who work with us in every little work we take up.
We are profoundly grateful to each one of you for being part of our mission in Hong Kong, Macau and China. Without your support and accompaniment, we wouldn’t be what we are today. We thank the Lord for making us his instruments in spreading his message. 

We also pray for all the missionaries and all those who are associated with us in the ministry. Through the intercession of St. Claret our Founder, may all of us who are gathered here this evening receive all the necessary graces to seek God’s will in our lives. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

AEYG 2019 + CF - Timor Leste

Timor Leste hosts Claretian youth assembly

Fr. Jose leads the delegates from Hong Kong and Macau 

Young people from Asian countries served by Claretian Missionaries have gathered in Timor-Leste with the theme for a week-long assembly to renew their commitment as Christ’s witnesses. The Asia East Youth Gathering (AEYG) took place from August 5 to 11 in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste,  with the theme ‘The solidarity of Christ impels us: go, sell, share and follow.’

The gathering is held every two years and is the third such event since the first was held in the Philippines in 2015. 125 young delegates from China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia and Timor-Leste participated in the event.

Bishop Virgílio do Carmo da Silva of Dili welcomed the youths on August 6, telling them to overcome the challenges of globalization and a society where young millennials are accused of “having no empathy and being selfish.” "Solidarity with Christ means that Christians must share and give their lives to others in need of help," he said. He hoped that Timor-Leste youths can learn from the gathering so they can transform communities where they live.

Claretian Father Emanuel Talok, the event coordinator said that “We are here united as Asians … to establish the true character of Catholic youths, as the bearers of the Christian message and witnesses to the joy of the Gospel." The theme of Solidarity follows up Pope Francis’ message during World Youth Day

2019 in Panama, in which he invited young people to be in solidarity with current realities and to become icons of hope, he said.

For many delegates this was a first time to participate in a youth gathering. For Andrew Yousung Seo from South Korea, AEYG provided an unforgettable encounter. “While searching for my vocation, I happened to know about the AEYG from my parish sister. She recommended me to participate in the event and also other people around me encouraged me to do it. It was the first time for me to participate in a global event, and this made me feel afraid and anxious. However, Everyone took care of and encouraged one another, and it gave me an unforgettable experience. I’ve never had before such a moment that I felt childlike, joyful and comfortable like this. I’m really grateful to God, and all the people who made this possible.” 

Veronique Crystal Rivera, one of the delegates from Hong Kong was pleasntly surprised to find the delegates from other regions very friedly, open and highly talented. “I got to spend time with a lot of  friends from different countries and bond over weird common things that I wouldn’t expect others to have in common! The people in Timor Leste were so optimistically open, friendly and very talented. They sang lots of songs I really couldn’t understand, but were great and did a lot of traditional dancing. Getting to see and experience how different people have their ways of living and entertainments were very experiential,” she said.

The next edition of AEYG 2021 will be held in Ormoc City, Philippines.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Pilgrimage to Rome

Jose had accompanied a group of pilgrims from Hong Kong to Italy in the second week of June. It has a been an occasion of grace as he is on his Jubilee Year of Religious Profession this year. Jose had made his first vows as a Claretian Missionary on 31 May 1994 at Claret Bhavan, Bangalore in India.

The group had 42 members. The first three days were spent in Vatican, with attending the Pope's general audience on June 11. During the same time, a delegation of six religious leaders from Hong Kong, led by Cardinal John Tong was also present in Vatican.

The group paid a visit to the Catacombs, major Basilicas, Salesian General Curia and the room where St. John Bosco breathed his last, the Colosseum, the Vatican Museum etc. before traveling to La Verna and Assisi. Other major destinations of the pilgrimage were:

the Basilica of Our Lady of Loretto (The Basilica della Santa Casa),

Our Lady of Pompey,

the relics of St. Padre Pio (San Giovani Rotondo),

The tomb of St. Nicholas,

Monte Cassino of St. Benedict,

Eucharistic Miracle Church of Lanciano

Monday, May 20, 2019

ASCLA EAST Bible Conference in Hong Kong

Stanley, Hong Kong. In the afternoon of Monday, May 13, 2019, the ASCLA East Bible Seminar organized by the General Bible Commission for ASCLA East started with the enthronement of the bible led by Fr. Alejandro Gobrin, CMF of the Philippine Province. Persons in-charge of bible apostolates and of the biblical animation of pastoral ministries from ASCLA East (Independent Delegations of East Asia, Korea, Indonesia-Timor Leste, and the Province of the Philippines), lay and CMFF, are currently gathered together at the Diocesan Retreat House in Stanley, Hong Kong SAR for the said seminar with the theme: “Biblical inspiration of our life and ministries as listeners and servants of the Word”.
General Consultor and Head of the General Bible Commission, Fr. Henry Omonisaye, CMF is animating the group. Several sessions are lined up to be discussed until the 18th of May: Claret and the Bible / Bible and Transformation / Bible Ministry in the Congregation (Fr. Henry Omonisaye, CMF); Bible Ministry in Asia / Biblically Inspired Pastoral Ministry (Fr. Alejandro Gobrin, CMF); Bible Ministry and the Media (Fr. Louie Guades III, CMF); Bible Ministry and Publication Ministry (Fr. Alberto Rossa, CMF); and last but not the least, Biblical Apostolate in Youth and Vocations Ministry (Br. Carlos Verga, CMF).

The ASCLA West Bible Seminar which was originally scheduled on the 28th of April to May 2 was rescheduled to October 2018 due to the bombings that happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

At the end of the five-days seminar, the participants selected a core group for the biblical apostolate in Asia East conference of the Claretians which will be coordinated by Fr. Alberto Rossa. The Seminar has proposed a resolution for the final approval major superiors of the various organisms in the Conference. The following is the draft of the proposals:

The sharing, discussions and lectures during the assembly enlightened us to identify the
strengths, challenges and the transformations needed in the Biblical Apostolate of the
Conference in general and that of the different organisms. The discussions have been
guided by the 8 directives of the XXV General Chapter, (MS 42-45). The assembly recognized
the need for goals and structures proper to the Conference in order to animate and
empower the Biblical Apostolate. The members of the seminar resolve to collaborate in the
biblical animation of their life and ministries in the following areas.

Pastoral Bible School
1. Establish a Pastoral Bible School at the Conference level to deepen the biblical
formation of the members of the Congregation and Lay people.
2. Begin the first biblical course by 2020 for the Claretians and collaborators.
1. conduct bible study week, promote lectio divina, bible based conferences, retreats
and recollections at all levels of formation
2. nurture the word of God through ‘Bible Forge’ at Conference level for our
3. intensify and multiply lay evangelizers with a biblical orientation through Bible
courses, retreats, conferences and recollections.
Youth Ministry
1. qualify youth gatherings (AEYG) with biblical dimension and animation
2. encourage growth of vocations and lay evangelizers with biblical-vocational-
hermeneutics in engaging with the youth
1. animate all our pastoral ministries through biblical encounters for parish priests, lay
organizations, educational institutions, JPIC, and others within the organisms

Publication and Social Media
1) appoint lay experts in media ministry
2) content production of biblical materials for different ministries
3) training of personnel for the apostolate beginning with the early stages of formation
who can handle both the business and ministerial part of it
4) Sharing of biblical resources with the entire Congregation
5) Facilitate publication of the bible where such help is required

Bible Translation
1) collaborate with the translation work in other organisms of the Congregation
2) assist in the formal training for translation to cater to the needs of the Conference
and even the whole Congregation
3) appoint a translation expert to the Biblical Animation Team of the Conference
Biblical Animation Team
In order to coordinate and animate the execution of the objectives we resolve to
constitute a Biblical Animation Team at the Conference level.
Dated: 17-05-2019
drafted by Jijo Kandamkulathy

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Claretians to take care of Cheung Chau Parish

Since 2007 Claretian Missionaries have been present  in Hong Kong as three priests from India came to study Cantonese in the Chinese University. After the competition of their two years of language studies, the diocese assigned two of them to two different parishes as assistant pastors in 2011. Four years later, on 1 November 2015, Epiphany Parish in Lantau island was entrusted to the care of the Claretians. Fr. Jose Cherukara and Fr. Alberto Rossa resided in Mui Wo while caring for the Mass Centers in Tai O and Peng Chau.  Fr. Ezakias joined the parish a year later in 2016.
Fr. Jose with some of the parishioners of Fatima Parish in Cheung Chau 
In May 2019, Fr. Ezakias was appointed the parish priest in Mui Wo while Fr. Jose moved to Our Lady of Fatima Church, Cheung Chau. Fr. Ezakias and Fr. Rossa are joined by Fr. Piotr as the new assistant parish priest in Mui Wo.

Our Lady of Fatima Church is situated in a quiet and serene location near the waterfront of Chueng Chau Tung Wan. Cheung Chau is an offshore island about 10 knots southwest of Hong Kong. With a population of 30,000, it is considered the most densely populated island. Being centrally located amongst the neighboring islands, it enjoyed a strategic position thus attracting residents even 3,000 years ago.  Cheung Chau was already a vibrant rural center in the 17th century, with many shops serving the needs of the neighbouring fishing fleets.  There was a custom house during the Ching dynasty, guarded with garrison and soldiers.
Our Lady of Fatima Church has experienced a long history of development and is now an independent parish, more so, a famous destination for pilgrims of local worshippers.  Pilgrims each year include the third day of the Chinese New Year fpr Chiu Chow and Swatow Catholics, May for the glorious cross and Our Lady of Fatima parade, and October for the Feast Day of patron saint.
People come, notwithstanding inclement weather, to pay tribute to our Lady, to say rosary, to pray for true repentance and peace for the world with whole hearted sincerity and dedication.
Other Catholic Organizations in Cheung Chau
In the 1950’s, the Jesuits and the Salesians have established language centres in Cheung Chau for training of their priests and students.  The Jesuits have also set up their own primary seminary, while the Salesians have developed their institute of philosophy and the Don Bosco centre for the young people.  From 1960’s onwards, Caritas provided community work and youth services in Cheung Chau. 

In respect of education facilities, the Sacred Heart Primary School and Kindergarten was completed together with the chapel. The Caritas Vocational Training Institute was founded in 1973 to fulfill the mission of evangelization through education.  All these efforts by various Catholic organizations have taken root and flourished in the quiet and peaceful island of Cheung Chau. 

The social services provided expand rapidly throughout the years, while at the same time complementing each other in achieving their objectives to serve the community, alongside the spiritual leadership under the Church of Our Lady of Fatima.

Together and working hand in hand, we can see the growth of religious life and spiritual worship being enriched through dedicated social and education services, making Cheung Chau a unique area of Catholic blessing. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Catechetical Congress – Anaheim

Fr. Rossa and Jose attended the Catechetical Congress in Anaheim, Los Angeles from March 21-24. We arrived in the Claretian Community at Dominguez on 13 and had a couple of days of acclimatizing to the new air and time zone.
With Fr. Gerald Kumar at St. Gabriel Mission, California
Claretian Community is situated in a beautiful 'Oasis' of greenery int the middle of the dry oil fields of Dominguez. The hose is a place for the elderly and all of them were so heartily welcoming us.  Bro. Rene, John Raab, Frank, Milton, Ed, Bob Billet, Jim, the artist Alberto, Tom, John Hampsch, Al Vazquez, Rick Wozniak and the young Bonano - that makes the community.
Fr. Rossa with Fr. Steve Sherwood, the "rabbi"
Their hospitality was superb. We have no words to thank... and it made possible our participation at the Catechetical Congress that proved to be very helpful for our ministry. Their interest and empathy for our ministry touched our hearts. 
The congress as such was very fruitful, "better than what was expected", int the words of Rossa. He had the chance to renew the contacts with many of the old friends... publishers and clients.
Claret Seminary, Dominguez Ranches
We tried to get in touch with some Chinese community, but the results were not very positive! Had a chance to visit Gerald Kumar at the St. Gabriel Mission.

With Fr. Justin Liu Zhen Tian – Associate Pastor, 
St. Thomas Aquinas ParishMonterrey Park, CA
Gerry and Rossa at St. Gabriels
Before the Sunday Mass at
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Monterrey Park, CA

Fr. John Raab and Rossa at the Cathedral of Los Angeles
With John Allen of CRUX and Eric Li
At the Claretian Booth in the Exhibitors' hall in Anaheim
With Fr. Jan Stefanów, SVDGeneral Secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation