Monday, August 01, 2016

Foundation Day of the Claretians

Founding Fathers of the Congregation 
The Congregaition of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, popularly known as Claretian Missionaries, was founded on 16 July 1849 by a group of six diocesan priests from Spain under the leadership of Fr. Antony Mary Claret, with an obejective to be itinerant Preachers of the Wordof God and they called themselves to be the "Servants of the Word". 
The Claretian Community of Macau and Hong Kong 
New Chapel in the Claretian House in Macau 
Over the years, the Congregation grew in numbers and spread through Spain and Europe and to Latin America and then to the rest of the world. The Founding Father, Fr. Antony Claret went on to become a bishop of Cuba. He died in the year 1870. 80 years later, in 1950 Pope Pius XII canonised him as a Saint. 
Fr. Jojo Ancheril presiding over the Eucharistic Celebration
on the Foundation Day 
The missionaries spread across the glob and 167 years after their foundation, over 3000 missionaries work in 65 countries in the  world, including China - Taiwan, Macau & Hong Kong. In his Foundaiton Day message to the Congregation, Fr. Mathew Vattamattom, the Superior General had these words of encouragement and support: The first thing we learn from contemplating the foundation scene is the readiness of the founding fathers to listen to the Spirit of God rather than to their fears and pains. We find the path to tread in troubled times by discerning what God asks of us in each concrete situation.

Happy Foundation Day! We are only 167 years old! 
For the Claretians in Macau and Hong Kong, the year 2016 is of significance as it marks the 10 years of the Missionary presence in this region. Fr. Alberto Rossa was the pioneering missionary who came to Macau in January 2006. On 15 July this year we celebrated our Foundation Day with the blessing and dedication of the renoveated chapel in our residence in Macau. Fr. Rossa blessed the Chapel and Altar in the presence of all the members of Macau and Hong Kong communities. Fr. Jojo Ancheril, Consultor of the East Asia Delegation, presided over the consecrated Eucharistic Clebrations. 

Hong Kong International Book Fair

Claretian Publications has participated in the Book Fair for the second consecutive year, thanks to the generous support of a group of collaborators in our mission. 

Recent Apostolic Exhortations and Encyclicals by Pope Francis were the most sought-after titles in our stall. Also, a book on assistance to leper colonies in China written by one of our partners, describing the experiences of a group of friends who were accompanying the leprosy affected for a period of over five years, was one of the popular books in the stall this year. 

Hong Kongers take the book fair seriously! With in the Fair you can hardly walk free - it is a sea of ​​people, especially in the children's section. Kids' education is of paramount importance for the parents. 
A Scene from the stalls 
Partners in our mission
A place for the spiritual accompaniment
If not for the hard work and generous contributions from our collaborators, participation in a book fair of its magnitude would not have been possible for the Claretian Publications with the limitted resources and personnel in Hong Kong and Macau.  almost everything is in Chinese. 

It is not just books, but even magic sells! Fr. Jojo amuses the children with  his magic tricks... 

Claretian collaborators with Bishop Stephen Lee  (new bishop of Macao)

Glimpses from World Youth Day 2016

A group of  15 youth and two animators - Sr. Anitha Eddula and Fr. Jose from Hong Kong together with 15 youth and their animator Fr. Bobin from Taiwan participated in the World Youth Day in Claretian Family in Lodz, Poland from 21 July to 25 July 2016 before joining the rest of the world to celebrate the WYD 2016 with Pope Francis in Krakow. 
The participants from Hong Kong for the WYD+CF 
The group from Hong Kong in front of the Basilica in Wadowice,
the birth place of Pope St. John Paul II 
Wadowice - Thank you JP II  !

Fr. Bobin in front of the JP II Museum in Wadowice 

Wadowice is a small town, where St. Pope John Paul II was born and raised. The place has been turned into a museum exhibiting The Wojtylas family’s former possessions such as an oven, a shelf, a table, table-ware, a laundry basket, family pictures as well as personal belongings of Father Karol Wojtyla – skis, a rucksack, a cap, a prayer book, etc. 

The church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the future John Paul II grew up is situated next to the Museum. He was baptised and later served as an altar boy and prayed daily here before its miraculous picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Holy Mass in the Basilica in Wadowice 

Coming to Wadowice was itself a moment of thanksgiving for me. In 2013, when I learned the next WYD would be held in Krakow, I had small prayer before the relic of John Paul II placed in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Hong Kong. I Prayed to him asking him to take me to his place in Krakow! And yes, he did. I couldn't ask for anything better as I had a chance to celebrate the Eucharist in the Chapel! Thank you JP II! 

Auschwitz II-Birkenau
Passing trough those dreaded gates of Birkenau...
In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp, up to three million people were murdered by the Nazis (2.5 million gassed, and 500,000 from disease and starvation). We visted Auschwitz on 19 July. 10 days later, it had the world's most celebrated pilgrim, praying in silence for the victims. Pope Francis on July 29 walked in silence through Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The Holy Father stopped for a silent prayer at the International Monument to the Camp Victims and lit a candle before one of the memorial tablets commemorating the victims from various nation.


There were no speeches, only Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich sang the penitential Psalm 130 in Hebrew: “From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord.”  Pope Francis lit a candle at the monument and stood silently praying. The local media reported that "the silence of the Pope was the most elequent homily he preached". 

Sr. Bogusia Woźniak, a Polish Claretian Missionary Sister took care of the group  from Taiwan and Hong Kong for five days in Warsaw and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, before the days of Claretian Family gathering in Lodz 
St. Florian's Cathedral 
St. Florian's Cathedral, more formally known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Florian the Martyr is a historic landmark in eastern Warsaw. The 75-meter towers of St. Florian’s Cathedral dominate eastern Warsaw's Praga district and highlight the cathedral’s role as a form of protest against the erstwhile Russian domination of Poland.


Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
Pope John Paul II made several visits to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska on the pilgrimages he made to his homeland Poland. It was at the monastery of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska that Pope John Paul II repeated the words of his motto: "Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria." ("I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart")....
In Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, learning to smile in moments of pain... One of the youth from Hong Kong sprained her leg while in Warsaw and had to remain on wheel-chair for the rest of her days in Poland, till the end of WYD
Injury Time

On the third day of our Pilgrimage, we were leaving Warsaw for Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in the morning. A little girl from our group by name Emily Yuen sprained her leg while climbing down the steps with her luggage. Dr. Emily had a chance to apply her medical skills and indeed she took care of Emily. But she was in severe pain by the time we arrived in the monastery. Hence she was taken to the hosepital where she had her legs on plaster. From that day on our boys and girls took turns in taking care of Emily.
Emily on wheelchair with her sister Dorothy in Wadowice

Some suggestions came up to me from some corners to send her back to Hong Kong as she would not be able to walk for the rest of her programme. But I decided not to -for this was her ambition to be part of the WYD and we would do everything possible to get her through this. And I knew the Lord appreciated this much! I consider this as a miracle in this foreign land: 
A special blessing from Bishop Jospeh Ha 
We needed a wheel chair to move her around. We searched for one in the Monastery and we found one! We could use it for two days until we left Kalwaria. When we moved to the Claretian Parish in Lodz, to my great relief, the priests helped us to arrange another wheelchair, which we used for two days. Then came the surprise. The host-family where Emily was staying offered a wheelchair which could be taken all the way to Krakow! We could leave the wheelchair in the parish of our accommodation in Krakow and the host family agreed to collect it from there after the WYD. Indeed, this generous act of the Host Family in Lodz was a great sign of mercy, which cannot be thanked enough! 

Once in Krakow, our Host Families in the parish of Rząska were equally generous in giving us the best of everything. They offered to drive us to the city and back so that we could be spared from getting into the crowded buses with the wheel chair. I am afraid, all their generosity were taken for granted and we fail to show our gratitude for what they have been to us during those five days.  
   
EAD Delegation get-together
We arrived in Lodz by mid noon. Fr. Bobin, the Youth Coordinator for the East Asia had arranged for a luncheon gathering for all the youth and animators from East Asia (EAD). We expected the delegations from Japan and China to join us for the lunch, but only the Japanese delegation could make it.
Some moments of fun were slowly unfolding. Fr. Ken, the Japanese coordinator informed us that the afternoon was meant to be with the Host Family and hence there is no time available for any EAD get-together in the Claretian parish. Later we realized that it was Ken’s version of the schedule as he was accommodated in a Japanese family and they were so happy to have a Japanese priest staying in their house! Thus the Hong Kong and Taiwan team moved to the Claretian Parish for registration. The Polish Youth of the parish were on their toes, welcoming us with pleasantries exchanged in English.
A 51 member strong delegation from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan participated in the Claretian Youth Family Gathering in Lodz. The Participants are seen with Fr. Arthur (General Prefect of Apostolate of the Claretian Missionaries) and Bro. Carlos (General Prefect of Youth and Vocation Ministry) 


The most expensive coffee!
Two priests in black sontana came out from the presbytery. Sr. Bogusia, the Polsih Claretian nun who accompanied us for the past four days in Poland introduced Bobin and me to the priests of the parish – Fr. Peter and Fr. Marcin. They immediately took hold of our luggage and invited us to the first floor of the House for a cup of coffee. After serving coffee, Fr. Marcin said, “You may pay your money here”. He had his tablet with details of all the groups and the amount each group had to pay for registration. Once we paid, the priests disappeared and we were led down the stairs. Bobin and I had a good laugh, for we thought this was the “most expensive coffee” we ever had!
“Selection for the shower”
Meeting strange people with unknown language and culture put us on the defensive and it took some time to get rid of our initial apprehensions. Although were told that all the participants will be accommodated in host families, we were not sure of where and how and what of our accommodations. We, going from a first-world city, were wielding our gadgets trying to play smart by using language translator apps! But the Polish youth stayed focused. They started calling people two or three each every time. Those called, were taken into the presbytery and they never returned! We were not sure what was going on. Some one from our group remembered and spoke aloud of the process of so called “selection for shower” in the Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi concentration and extermination camp! We had visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau on the previous day and hence the memory was fresh!
Bro. Carlos (General Prefect of Youth and Vocation Ministry), Fr. Bobin (Coordinator for Youth and Vocation Ministry, East Asia Delegation) , Fr. Arthur (General Prefect of Apostolate of the Claretian Missionaries) and  Fr. Jose
A member of the Filiacion Cordimariana exchanging gifts with Fr. Jose 
Claretian Family Gathering in Lodz 
Claretian Family Gathering in Lodz 
Bro. Carlos joins the Hong Kong group for the lucnh
Our groups of 17 from Hong Kong and 16 from Taiwan were split into different host families. This didn’t mean that our new families were waiting for us as we reached the Claretian Parish. After long time of waiting for “the selection”, the selected were briefed of the programme and the ID card and programme kit were distributed and were taken to a garden on the opposite side of the Church for another period of waiting, this time for the host families to come and pick us up.
Our Host Families

With our Host Family in Lodz: Maryla, Jose, Amelia, Andrzej, Stephen and Perry 
Finally, the wait was over when a teenage girl Amelia together with her Mom Maryla came up looking for three of us. As we had heavy luggage and her car couldn’t accommodate all of us in the car, she drove our luggage to her home first and returned to pick us up.

Amelia spoke perfect English and we had a sigh of relief! She took us to their second floor and showed a beautiful study and bed room and said, “This is my room; for next five days, this is your home. Use it the way you want to use!” Ah! that was so sweet of her! Her dad, Andrzej had developed a sudden back pain that day and had to see a doctor. So Dad was not at home when arrived.
Our Host Family in Rzaska, Krakow: Jose, Perry, Ola, Stephen, Przemyslaw and Eva
Can you imagine inviting three foreign men and their luggage into your home for over a week? And Amelia gave us two options to choose from: Dinner was ready and we could have it any time we wanted. Either eat immediately and see what time her dad would return; or wait for her dad and have dinner with him. We chose the second and decided to wait for her dad to come back from the doctor. Although it was some time after 8 in the evening, the sun was so bright.

Starting with a hot traditional Polish meal and wine that first evening, the whole family helped us in so many ways but especially with their presence and conversation. They really showcased the power of a family working together and our stay with them gave us some of the best memories I have of the pilgrimage. We couldn’t thank them enough for the accompaniment they gave during our stay with them. 

For the next one week, Dad drove us to the parish every morning and took us back home from wherever we were in the city or in the parish. Mom washed and ironed our clothes, prepared delicious breakfast and dinner for us. It was all done in the midst of their daily busy schedules – Mom Maryla was a doctor who specialized in eye care and Dad Andrzej was Pharmacist, who owned a Pharmacy in the city. Amelia was a student, but during the summer vacation, she was helping her dad in the pharmacy. I look forward to staying in touch and hopefully returning the hospitality in some way.
Sendig off mass in the Atlas Arena, in the Diocese of Lodz
Sendig off mass in the Atlas Arena, in the Diocese of Lodz
Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-sing, Auxialiary Bishop of Hong Kong was responsible for the Catechesis for Cantonese Speaking participants, who were accommodated in Parafia Świętego Antoniego z Padwy (Rząska)
Sanctuaries of St. John Paul II 
and Divine Mercy 

Established by current Archbishop of Kraków (and close advisor to JPII) Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz to commemorate the legacy of every Pole’s favourite Pope, the John Paul II centre is Located in Łagiewniki, within convenient walking distance of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, the ambitious ‘Have No Fear!’ John Paul II Centre (the official name of which refers to his famous words during his inauguration speech) is essentially a small ‘city within the city’
The Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Lagiewniki: In 1985, Pope John Paul II called Lagiewniki the "capital of the Divine Mercy devotion". Since the beatification of Saint Faustina in 1993, her remains rest on the altar, below the image of Divine Mercy.
Confessionals in Krakow, close to the Blonia park
In Blonia Park, waiting for the "Way of the Cross with Pope Francis" 
During the Vigil Service with Pope Francis in the Campus Misericordiae
In the Campus  Misericordia, before the Closing Mass.  
Addressing a vast sea of young women and men gathered in Campus Misericordiae, a field set up for the closing mass of the WYD some nine miles outside the city of Krakow. Pope Francis said, 'not to be deterred by those who want to present the image of an insensitive God, and to believe in the power of God’s mercy'. 
“People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good, and bad to the bad. Instead, our Heavenly Father ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,’” said Pope Francis.
He was addressing some two million women and men, most of whom had spent the previous night in the field. We had walked over seven kilometers in the hot sun, together with hundreds of thousands of youth and adult, carrying our backpacks and sleeping bags.

We remained there all night, following a prayer vigil led by Pope Francis in which he urged the youth not to be “couch potatoes” but instead to wake up and take ownership of our own life. If not, he warned, other people - “not necessarily better” - would make decisions for us. 


Should I say, we had only joyous moments through the 17 days of Pilgrimage in Poland? Ah that would be far exaggerated statement from the truth. I had my moments of loneliness and feelings of rejection! Long of hours walk in Warsaw and later on in Krakow and spending a night on the field with hundreds of thousands of strangers all around and at the same time a feeling of not being accepted and appreciated and even mocked at, was indeed hard to digest. Walking the wrong route in the heavy rain, and with little options left to get back to our destination while failing to have the confidence of my own group, left me frustrated and clueless. WYDs are crowded and noisy but it can also take you to moments of solitude. 


Now, a few Weeks after the WYD, when I look back into those painful moments, the picture gets clearer. Sr. Anitha, my companion in leading the "Claretian Youth Delegates" from Hong Kong, had given me a valuable piece of advise: "If all the people entrusted to our care are already well-formed and perfect catholics, they don't need us any more! Perhaps the Lord had given them to our care with a purpose! Do not be dis-heartened"! Yes, that makes sense! 


During the vigil service with the Holy Father Pope Francis, we reflected on the plight of the Syrian refugees and the uncertainties of the youth in the war-torn regions of Aleppo and the rest. At that time, I had just listened to those stories but it never touched my senses. But now I realise that my moments of struggle were a small sample of the  painful uncertainties of the life of the refugees. I thank the Lord for making me walk through this uncertainties and moments of humiliation. This was indeed a true pilgrimage which raised my awareness of a migrant’s plight, even in a small way and I wish it makes me better prepared to face tougher challenges with smile!  



I wouldn't forget the beautiful atmosphere of that candlelit evening and Pope Francis encouraging us to build bridges (beginning with the easiest bridge, to clasp the hand of your neighbor). A frame that I would cherish for long would be my beloved youth joyfully taking turns to carry or push their injured friend on wheelchair till the last day of the WYD. An opportunity to concelebrate the Papal Mass during the closing mass will remain fresh in my memory.