Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Welcome to the China Bulletin December 2015

"I have many people in this city..." - Acts 18:10

Claretian Missionaries have been present in Hong Kong from 2007 onwards. And we began to serve in the diocese of Hong Kong from 1 November 2011. Four years later, on 1 November 2015 when the diocese assigned the parish of Epiphany in the Lantau Island in Hong Kong to the Claretians, we couldn't but help to see the Divine Providence in the whole process.
Some historical notes from the Booklet, "Footprints..."
on the History of Claretian Presence in China 
There is a painful yet beautiful history behind the presence of the Claretian Missions in China. The Missionaries first came to China way back in 1930s and developed a mission centre in the valleys of the famous Yellow Mountains in Anhui Province. 
Anhui Province in China 
Over a period of 20 years, the mission centre flourished with more than 25 missionaries from Spain and Italy serving in the region and they had established schools, clinics and chapels in the region.

Soon, the region was raised to the status of a Vicariate and Msgr. Fogued, the pioneering Claretian in China was appointed as the Apostolic Prefect of Tunxi.

Many more seminarians back in Spain were preparing themselves to go to China as missionaries, one of them being Blessed Rafael Briega, who was martyred in Barbastro during the Spanish Revolution in 1936. 

During his years in the seminary, he was also learning Chinese and even wrote letters to the missionaries in Chinese. In 1992, Saint Pope John Paul II beatified Rafael Briega and 50 other Claretian martyrs of Barbastro. 
But in the early 1950s, with the changes in the political scenario in China, all the foreign missionaries had to leave the country. On 1 November 1952 the last batch of Claretians left China, with a 'hope to return soon'!
The beatification of Rafael Briega was boost for the Congregation to reopen its mission in China. And this new impetus resulted in missionaries reaching Taiwan in 1994. The missionary presence was extended to Macau in 2006 and to Hong Kong in 2007.
Pilgrims from Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong in Wongsaan,
the pioneering mission centre of the Claretians in China in April 2015
Claretians in Macau and Hong Kong with their collaborators in the Mission
In 2011 when I was taking my first assignment in the diocese, the Vicar General asked me for a date on which I could make myself available. I was due for my two months of vacation and I said, I would be available from November that year. Thus, the diocese appointed me as the Assistant Parish Priest in St. Benedict Church on 1 November 2011.
The Claretian Community in Hong Kong with Fr. Paco, Delegate Superior (in red shirt)
On 1 November 2015, at Mui Wo in Hong Kong
Four years later when the discussions were on regarding taking up of the new parish in Lantau, once again, the date happened to be 1 November. And now we love to believe that it was not just a mere coincidence that on 1 November 2015, the Claretians establish their community in Hong Kong. Our pioneers left China on a November 1 and perhaps All Saints whom we honour on that day, prays for the missionaries in China and make this date a special one for us!

-" Do not be afraid, go on speaking... for I have many people in this city" (Acts 18: 9-10) 

Exploring Mui Wo

The past month of our life in Mui Wo was spent exploring the region and the people. The refreshing greeneries, challenging hiking trails, enticing stretches of beaches and delectable sea-food are just a few highlights of this area in the south of Lantau Island. In contrast to the busy and fast-moving life style of Hong Kong, South Lantau in particular is calm and serene. 
On Sivermine Beach, Mui Wo

You scale the mountains and feel being on top of the world! 
Our Lady of Joy Abbey - the Trapist Monastery in Tai Shui Hang also comes under the territory of the parish.
The Trapist Monastery Chapel 
There is also a community of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Angels in Mui Wo.
Sisters of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Angels
at Mui Wo Parish with Fr. Jose and Fr. Alberto

Our Lady of Joy Abbey - the Trapist Monastery in Tai Shui Hang
Our Lady of Joy Abbey Chapel
Holy Family School, Peng Chau 
The parish has two mass centers - Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel in Tai O and Our Lady, Queen of Peace Chapel in Peng Chau. The Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Peng Chau is celebrating 50 years of its service to the people of the region this year. 

Talks on Infancy Narratives in Advent

Fr. Jose Marques addresses the Parish Community in Mui Wo 
Prior to the season of Advent, Epiphany Parish has organised two lectures on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospel by Fr. Jose Marques, renowned Professor in Theology. The talks in English were held in the Epiphany Church in Mui Wo, on the last two Sundays of November. The talks on the historic and cultural setting of the Infancy narratives provided us with a deeper understanding of the mystery of incarnation. Yes! we have done a bit of homework as we walk into the season of Advent!

Fr. Jose Marques is a Claretian Missionary from Spain who served in various parts of the world - African countries, Japan, Korea and now based in the Philippines. He was a Professor in University of Santa Thomas and in ICCLA in Manila in the Philippines. He was visiting the Claretian Community in Macau and obliged to our request to address our parish community in Mui Wo, Hong Kong. 

Perpetual Help School - Tai O

One of the famous tourist spots in Hong Kong, Tai O is part of the newly created Epiphany Parish of South Lantau. Tai O became popular for the presence of the Chinese White Dolphins which can still be spotted on good weather conditions... Many in Hong Kong fear that the construction of the Macau -Hong Kong bridge and the expansion of the International Airport will drive these lovely creatures away from the Hong Kong waters. 

The Fishing Village of Tai O 
An areal view of the Tai O Village
The small Chapel and the school building in Tai O are not utilised well as the school had been closed for more than 15 years and the parishioners are just a few. Once in a month a few parishioners from Mui Wo accompany the priest to Tai O to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the Chapel. Hence, a better utilisation of the facility to develop it as a centre for Bible studies and retreats is a vision we have in mind for the Centre in Tai O.
Perpetual Help Chapel and School in Tai O 
Fr. Alberto and Fr. Ezakias in front of the Perpetual Help School and Chapel

Donated furnitures 
More Furniture! Thanks to AIJESDA! 
And the vision could soon be actualised as some of our friends have arranged a lot of furniture donated to the Church, which can now furnish the empty class rooms of the school building. We need to make some essential repair and renovation work and our dream would soon be a reality! 

News from our Publications

The Bibles printed in China reach destinations all over the world. In November this year, we have helped in sending two containers of Bibles and Bible Diaries in French and English to Cameroon. The Bibles are printed in Amity Press, Nanjing in China. 

Translation of the Old Testament into modern Chinese 
After the publishing of the New Testament in Chinese with Lectio Divina, we are moving ahead with the project of the translation of the Old Testament and this turns out to be a monumental task, particularly because of the nuances and differences of the language in the Mainland China and in Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. Take a look at the sample page of the editing:
Introduction to the Book of Judges
More to come! Watch out for a series of comic books in Chinese, telling the stories of the Bible for kids. Fr. Jijo, Director of the Claretian Publications in Macau and his team are busy on the project! 

Christmas greetings from Mui Wo!

We missionaries in Mui Wo
wish all our readers 

a Blessed Christmas 
a joyous New Year 2016 
Fr. Jose Marques, Fr. Jose, Fr. Alberto, Fr. Ezakias 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Welcome to the China Bulletin - November 2015

Opening new frontiers: New Claretian mission in Hong Kong

Missionaries and the Parishioners after the Eucharistic Celebration
in Epiphany Church, Mui Wo on 1 November 
On 1 November 2015 the Claretian Missionaries began a new mission in Hong Kong, probably 487th House of the Congregation which serves in 63 countries around the world. The new parish is in the farthest periphery of Hong Kong, a tiny Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China(PRC). 
Missionaries with Fr. Provincial (in Red) at the retreat house in Mui Wo 
After 10 years in the neighboring diocese of Macao, the missionaries have accepted the invitation of the Diocese of Hong Kong to open a new mission station in the South of Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Three Claretian Missionaries form this new community: Fr. Ezakias Anthony Swamy(Superior), Father Alberto Rossa (Econome) and Fr. Josékutty Mathew (Pastor & Vicar).
Fr. Henry SVD, the out-going parish priest,
Fr. Jose CMF  during the Eucharistic Celebration
The new parish of "Epiphany" is on Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has 53 parishes for 400,000 Catholics with a population of 8 million and about 1000 square kilometers (Macau, on the other hand has only 31 square kilometers and 600,000 inhabitants). The missionaries took over the new parish, which includes half of Lantau Island-some 75 square kilometers also including the mass centers of Tai-O and Peng Chau. Here is the map of Hong Kong.

Lantao Island in red (150 square klms). Yellow
China (9.388 million square klms). Green and Red  together forms Hong Kong 
1000 square Klms. 
In Red - Peng Chau Island having 1 square kilometer 
Peng Chau is known for its lifestyle of small island region, access to fresh seafood, and possess many temples located around the island. The main mode of transportation on the island is the bike, but no motor vehicles.
Fr. Ezakias Anthonyswamy, flanked by Fr. Alberto (Right) and Fr. Jose (left)
at the Epiphany Church in  Mui Wo 

St. Claret Feast - Family Reunion Day!

Concelebrants of the Feast Day Mass with Bishop Jose Lai,
Bishop of Macau, in St. Lawrence Church, Macau 
The Feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, our founder, on 24 October is becoming an occasion for the friends and well-wishers of Claretians in Macau and Hong Kong to have an annual gathering to share the friendship and joy and to seek the intercession of our Father Founder, St. Claret. 

This year over 300 friends including priests and religious took part in the festal celebrations, hosted in Macau. As the Church concludes the Year of Consecrated Life, we had Mons. Ante Jozic of the "Study Mission of the Holy See" (which serve as 'nuncio' for Hong Kong, Macao and China) to address the gathering on the theme of "Consecrated Life". 
Mons. Ante Jozicof the "Study Mission of the Holy See",
addressing the gathering on the theme "Consecrated Life"
"The aims of the Year of Consecrated Life are taken by the Holy Father from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata and I find them very interesting and useful for our reflection today", said Mons. Jozic. Quoting Holy Father Pope Francis he continued, “You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things”. He further reflected on the three aims of the Year of Consecrated Life.
Solemn Procession to the Festal Mass 
1. The first of these aims is to look to the past with gratitude for our religious vocation.  
Reflecting on our history, we reflect on our identity, on our unity as a family and on our common sense of belonging. History is our teacher in the present life. History teaches us how the charism has been lived over the years.

2. The Year of Consecrated Life is also time to live the present with passion
For each community and religious person has received the Holy Spirit’s call to follow Jesus as St. Paul says: “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). The religious vows should be intended as a concrete expression of this passionate love. The Year of Consecrated Life challenges us to examine our fidelity to the mission that we are entrusted. 

3. The third aim of this Year is to embrace the future with hope and openness 
All our communities today experience many difficulties:  decreasing vocations and aging members, many economic problems, threats posed by relativism etc.
The Festal Meal 
This Year reminds us to put our trust in God because for him “nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37). This is the hope that enables our consecrated life to look into the future and build our communities on real values, proper dedication, concrete actions and on missionary work.
Friends from St. Benedict's Church, Hong Kong in St. Lawrence Church 
What we have to do to receive graces during the Year of Consecrated life?
1. First of all, the religious are invited to refresh their religious life and vocation within themselves and inside their own communities. 

2. The religious are invited to show more happiness in their religious life. There is a need to live authentic fraternity in our communities. 
Fr. Jijo, Fr. Jojo, and Mons. Ante Jozic during the Celebrations 
3. During this Year there is a need of bearing witness to our faith in the world.

4. The religious are finally invited to share their own love and solidarity in the community, in the Diocese where they life and serve.
Friends from Hong Kong had an extra day of Pilgrimage,
visiting various Marian Shrines in Macau
After the talk by Mons. Ante Jozic, Bishop Jose Lai, Bishop of Macau presided over the Festal Mass, concelebrated by 20 priests

Claretians at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Ever since 1985, Fr. Alberto has been a regular participant of the Frankfurt Book Fair - the largest bookfair in the world. This year we were seven participants from the Claret Publishing group, representing Macao, Argentina, Brazil, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Hong Kong and the Philippines. Particpation and even a visit to the Fair is expensive in Frankfurt, yet Claret Group is a regular participant as it offers an opportunity to make ourselves known to the rest of the publishing houses, especially those representing the world of religious publications.  

Fr. Jijo Kandankulathy, Director of Claretian Publications in Macau, a first time participant in the Frankfurt Book Fair, shares his Frankfurt experience:

I was new to Frankfurt and the Book Fair (FBF). Being in FBF was a different experience from the hearsay. My mental association with other book fairs was connected to a booklovers community that discussed ideas and theories that might change the world. Along my wanderings to different booths, I did want to buy every good book on the shelf, but eventually realized that FBF is all about business. People came there for buying and selling copyrights, translation rights and finding out popular reading habits across the world.  
A walk through downtown Frankfurt: Alberto, Dennis and Jijo
This year, the fanfare of the FBF was the presence of the Satanic Verses fame, Salman Rushdie. Iran chose to boycott the Fair altogether because of Rushdie whom they had issued a Fatwa, years ago. Imagine the poser of a writer to hold a whole country at bay!
Julia, representing the Amity Printing, explains the new
challenges and solutions in the printing of books
In the inaugural address, Rushdie passionately defended the freedom of expression and compared the writers to front line warriors without tanks and guns to fight. I regret that I had not learned enough German to understand the live telecast of the interviews with the authors, which appeared serious fodder to the inquisitive minds...

On my way back, the maple trees that had blushed to red with the kiss of the autumn gentleman around for some time bemused me. Ah! The backdrop for the romantic scene of creation saga must have been cast here along the sides of Rhine. Thanks Frs. Devadas and Thomas for tricking me to fall into the mesmerizing German autumn spell.