Easter pastoral letter from your bishop: Learn from the Apostles

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may the Risen Christ grant you joy and peace at Easter and throughout the year!

With God’s blessings, the Diocese of Hong Kong rejoices in over 3,000 adult baptisms this Easter Vigil. On behalf of the diocese, I would like to offer our warmest welcome to the newly baptized who have joined our Catholic family. I also would like to convey our sincerest thanks to the catechists who have been instructing the newly baptized. I was happy to meet and talk to many of them during the scrutinies in Lent. I look forward to meeting them again and to celebrating the thanksgiving Mass with them at Pentecost.

Although the first Easter happened over 2,000 years ago, we can still learn from the Apostles, particularly from their first encounter with Jesus. A Protestant friend of mine, shared with us his insights on the conversion, formation and mission of the Apostles according to John 1:35-42 :

As Jesus was walking by, John the Baptist looked at him and cried out : “Behold the Lamb of God!” Two of his disciples immediately believed that Jesus was the Saviour of the World. Thus, they accepted the most basic tenet of the Christian faith.
These two disciples were not satisfied with merely believing in Jesus. Thus, they asked Jesus : “Rabbi, where do you stay?” And they started to stay with Jesus from that hour. Staying with Jesus is also the most basic feature of Christian life.
These two disciples were still not satisfied with staying with Jesus in person; they wanted to participate in his mission of evangelisation. Thus, Andrew brought his brother, Simon, Peter, to Jesus. The mission to bring others to Jesus is the most fundamental Christian work.

Today in Hong Kong, so many centuries later, many people are glad to receive baptism, and many are thrilled to share their faith with others. In addition to the priests, permanent deacons, the brothers and sisters from Hong Kong and overseas who work here, I am proud of the fact that we have over 1,000 Sunday school teachers in different parishes. I also thank the 580 volunteer catechists who instruct catechumens across our diocese. They sacrifice their time and energy to spread the faith. I admire their efforts. I hope and pray that all of them will follow the footsteps of the Apostles and make further progress along the road to God.

As fat as the current situation of catechism classes and of the newly baptized in our parishes is concerned, a recent review shows that, while there has been much progress over the past few decades, there is definitely room for improvement in the following areas:

The basic and ongoing formation of catechists, as well as their selection and assessment ;
Assigning a sufficient number of well trained catechists to meet the needs of an increasing number of catechumens ;
Providing a complete, systematic catechetical programme for those wishing to embrace the Catholic faith, corresponding to the various stages of the catechumenate as envisaged by Vatican II (cf. Sacrosanctum Concillium, n. 64 ; Ad Gentes, n. 14) ;
Enhancing the indispensable role of the pastor in co-ordinating and supervising the catechetical programmes of the parish (cf. Canons 776-777).
There is nothing static in living with Jesus. Especially in the 21st century, every disciple needs ongoing formation and every local Church needs to improve the quality of its catechetical instruction. Where would we be without the Holy Spirit Seminary College, which offers classes in theology, and religious sciences? Our diocese has been blessed for 45 years to have the Diocesan Catechetical Centre, which was founded in 1965. We are a more vital community thanks to the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, the Biblical Institute, the Central Council of Catholic Laity, our Catholic weeklies in Chinese and English, and also parish bulletins and websites. In every parish, there are associations of the faithful, which perform a variety of ministries, and where Catholics encourage one another and draw closer to God. I hope that the newly baptized will continue to learn our Catholic doctrine through the above institutes and media, participate in sacramental life, and deepen their spirituality and faith by joining lay associations or basic faith communities.

In our Diocesan Synod Documents, promulgated in 2002, the document of Group One is entitled, Faith Formation of the Laity and Lay Ministry. It says, “It is a great gift to be able to become children of God, to receive his grace gratuitously and to follow Christ.” Among the numerous practical suggestions of this document, I especially encourage both old and new Catholics to become deeply familiar with the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church. We hope that through faith sharing, activities, questions and answers, and case studies, everyone can relate doctrine to daily life. We also look to ongoing formation courses for new Catholics, so that the faith of the catechumens may grow, practice it with greater sincerity, spread the Gospel in wider circles and give a more powerful witness to the faith.

Finally, let me give thanks again to God for the increase in new Catholics, and for the numerous catechists who have generously led others to the Risen Christ. I earnestly hope that our Catholic community will advance in both quality and quantity.

Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, Alleluia! May His Holy Mother intercede for us, that we will all keep the flame of faith alive in our hears and in our Church.

+ John Tong
Bishop of Hong Kong

Easter 2010  

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