During the closing ceremony of the Diocesan Synod on 30 December, seven drafts voted on by the delegates will be presented to Cardinal John B. Wu as the fruit of the Synodal proceedings. Basing on these, His Eminence will issue decrees and guidelines as directives for future pastoral programme of the Diocese.
In the meantime, the Cardinal has instructed the secretariate of the Synod to make public the 177 proposals of the Synod for the information of the faithful, in preparation for his forthcoming directives.
* 1. Bible Reading
The habit of reading the bible daily enables a Christian to achieve maturation of faith, and sanctification of one’s life. By means of information technology and the media, e.g. telephone, website and printed materials, the faithful can deepen his/her knowledge of the Word and to strengthen the bond between the Word and one’s daily life. It is necessary to encourage the faithful to learn ‘Lectio Divina’. By repeatedly pondering upon the Word, fixing one’ gaze upon the face of Christ, and by entering into the wisdom of God, we allow the Word to touch our soul, to gradually mode and change our entire life. Besides this, the faithful should give importance to bible sharing in a small Christian community and to the mission of proclaiming the Word.
* 2. Prayer
Emphasis should be given to the link between prayers before meals and the eucharistic celebration through which we offer together with Christ to the Father our daily work, joys, suffering and prayers, so that they may become the food of our lives, our spirit and they may circulate within the cosmic Christ. In our prayers, we should also have concern for our physical health and diet, environmental protection and nutrition, and give importance to the relationship between the fifth, the seventh and the tenth commandment. This means to link up matter with the spirit, the body and soul in our prayers. When our spirit gets hurt, we can seek for appropriate spiritual healing, and let the Holy Spirit to heal us. The faithful should take time everyday to meditate and reflect, to be engaged in bible reading and prayers. Periodically, a longer period of time should be reserved for personal retreats, preferably under the advice of a spiritual director, in order to reflect on the extent to which one’s life is conducted according to the will of God, and to be able to answer the call of God. The faithful should look for a spirituality that suits oneself, and that may foster the achievement of sanctity, and union with God. Prayer life of the community, especially an active participation in the liturgical life of the community should not be neglected.
3. Learning to Meditate and Contemplate
The faithful should learn how to meditate or contemplate, so as to get in touch with one’s own spiritual world, to understand oneself and to experience God and His “goodness”, and to allow the “goodness”, wisdom and potentials God has placed in our hearts to develop. Preferably such practices should be kept with constancy, and turn them to a habit. Consequently, we shall deeper experience and understand the benefit that comes from mediation and contemplation, and can achieve closer relationship and greater union with God.
** 4. Take part in small communities of Faith
Community life can more effectively assist the faithful to grow constantly in faith. Therefore, the faithful, especially the newly baptized Christians should be encouraged to choose a small community of faith that suits one’s needs. Through the witness of the community, they could live up to their faith and embrace their mission of evangelization.
5. Explore the different identities of a Christian
The spirit proposed by the pastoral letter: “March into the Bright Decade” is to be upheld continuously. It emphasized our three identities: citizens of Hong Kong, Chinese citizens and Catholics, and encouraged us to know more about Chinese people, Chinese culture and the relationship between Chinese citizens and the Church in China. It also emphasized the need to explore the wider dimension and meaning of the world and universe, to make use of new sciences and discoveries of the twenty first century (new theories of cosmology, evolution, biology, quantum physics, astronomy, ecology etc.) to further explore on faith, and to develop dialogue with the learned so as to achieve mutual enrichment.
** 6. Catechumenate community
The Diocesan catechetical commission should periodically conduct an overall review of the syllabus, the content and format of the catechumenate and establish a system of assessing catechists. Parish priests should have concern for the quality of the parish catechumentate. In the process of catechesis, emphasis should be given to the active and vivid faith perspectives of the catechumens, avoidance of any one-way communication and teaching (e.g. seminar on specific topics). With regard to content, it should not be merely a transference of knowledge, but should be communicated through a form of group sharing, where emphasis should be given to the integration of the Word and daily living, and such group would serve as a preliminary form of small community of faith, the basic components of which are liturgical prayer, the Word, service, and faith put into practice as well as giving testimony. Catechumens should be helped to acquire a sense of mission and evangelization, experiences of prayer and the habit of reading the Word (e.g. they should be taught about Lectio Divina). They should be encouraged to read books (including the Bible, Kung Kao Po and spiritual books), to take part in activities of Christian formation organized by different groups, to acquire a habit to participate in liturgical life of the parish, especially in the liturgy of Lent and the Holy Week. The relationship and communication between the parish and the catechumenate should be strengthened, e.g. members of pastoral team or parish pastoral council should visit the catechumenate periodically, and share the recent development of the parish, invite catechumens to take part in parish activities and to conduct home visits to the catechumens etc. Parish priests are encouraged to be visiting speakers in the catechumenate, as to have more contacts with the catechumens.
7. Catechumenate sponsors
Besides godparents, parishes should openly recruit catechumenate sponsors. As part of the catechumenate, the sponsors on the one hand cooperate with catechists, thence lessening their work load; on the other hand, it could be an occasion of catechism review for the sponsors, so that in future these will become potential catechists, and can assist in the follow up of small communities of faith formed by the newly baptized.
It is necessary to look into and strengthen the role and ministry of godparents. For adults, after being officially accepted as catechumens (one and a half years before their baptism), parish should encourage suitable parishioners to be godparents. Formation meetings should be then held for them. They should be encouraged not to become godparents of too many catechumens. After baptism, godparents should maintain close contacts with their godchildren, and become companions in their life of faith.
* 9. Encourage the newly baptized to join communities
In the process of catechesis, catechumens should be helped to be aware of and to experience small communities of faith, and catechists should encourage them to take part in small Christian communities of the parish after baptism, to meet regularly, to share in the Word, and live up to one’s faith in daily life and face its challenges. They should also let the newly baptized faithful to form new small communities of faith, and to continue their experience found during the period of catechumenate, so as to mature in faith. Catechists or tutors should follow up on these small Christian communities for a period of time, so that they can continue to grow in faith. They should introduce support groups and formation resources in the Church for small Christian communities to them. Regular visits by the catechists in future can be of help for these communities.
10. Infant Baptism
Parishes should pay home visits to families asking for infant baptism, in order to understand the condition of these families, the religious practices of parents, and make use of such occasions to contact those who do not go often to church. All the more, parishes should provide faith formation meetings for parents, while parents on the other hand have the obligation to attend such meetings. After systematic ordering of relevant data of the families and filing them, parishes can take the initiative to visit such families a few years later to understand their situation and to invite children to attend Sunday Schools.
* 11. Sunday School
Diocesan Catechetical Commission should conduct overall review on the syllabus, content and format of Sunday Schools, and strengthen its lifelines and level of interest. More religious songs, games and teaching kits etc. suitable for children should be composed and arranged. Sunday school for pre-school age children (from 3 to 6) as its target group should be considered. With regard to teachers, faithful with professional knowledge (such as primary school, kindergarten or child care centre teachers) should be recruited as persons responsible for Sunday Schools, in order to lead and support other teachers. Sunday Schools should periodically and openly recruit lay people as teachers. Parish priests should meet Sunday School teachers in order to have update overview of the situation. The Diocese should hold regular activities to increase teaching skills of teachers, to promote sharing and exchange of teaching experiences and depth of faith.
12. Family Life
In order to help Christians attach importance to family life, parishes should promote family activities, and foster communication and understanding among family members. Establishment of small communities of faith with families as basic units should be encouraged in parishes. Both the Diocese and parishes should strongly promote spiritual formation of the family, e.g. family bible reading, family prayer, family reconciliation etc. Parishes can make use of existing resources in the society and within the Church, e.g. invite Hong Kong Caritas or C.M.A.C. to organize courses and activities aimed at enhancing the knowledge of the self (including one’s emotions and character etc.) and growth integration, and focusing on helping the faithful to lay the foundations for a healthy personality, enabling the actual experience of real human nature, in order to become a healthy and integral person, and to allow integration with the experience of faith.
* 13. Utilizing Sunday to strengthen Christian formation
Sunday mass, being the one Church liturgy with the highest participation, it can be appropriately utilized for strengthen Christian formation. Elements of faith formation can be introduced, without affecting the integrity of the liturgy, e.g. after Holy Communion or before the Eucharistic celebration begins, a few minutes of formation could be provided for the faithful. The content can be either a further catechesis in a brief and condensed manner, or an explanation of the different elements of the liturgy, or the meaning of the day’s readings. On the other hand, in some special Sundays, we can let the faithful share their testimony of the Word in a formal manner, e.g. families could do so on the Feast of the Holy Family, teachers on the education Sunday, workers on the Labor Sunday etc. It may be better if those giving testimonies are parishioners, and they should have been well prepared. They should have reflected well on the readings of the day, and then they can offer their life experiences as relevant illustrations. It is advisable that the priest would give a brief conclusion after the sharing. Hence this can be an occasion of formation and reflection on faith and Christian living for those who give their testimony.
14. Sacrament of Reconciliation
It is necessary to choose one parish in each deanery to provide occasions for the faithful to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, in every Saturday in fixed hours.
** 15. Reinforce formation activities
It is necessary to increase the portion of activities of faith formation in the parishes. Such activities should be supported by relevant Diocesan institutes and communities. The pastoral council of each parish should establish one formation team responsible for the planning and coordination of formation activities or courses in the parish, or for inviting relevant Diocesan units or different organizations to offer courses for laity formation. Formation teams within the same deanery can form a support network, to promote periodic sharing, renewal, and learning, and to co-sponsor within the deanery appropriate activities or courses of formation. Parishes should organize further catechesis renewal courses for the faithful regularly. Appropriate speakers can be invited, e.g. pastoral team members, parishioners graduate from the Institute of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Sciences of the Holy Spirit Seminary College or Biblical Institute, catechists of the parish or staff members of formation institute of the Diocese, so as to enable the faithful to review systematically the relationship between daily life and the bible, liturgy, morals and catechism.
16. Formation on the Spirit of Mission
In different phrases of formation process, more emphasis should be given to Christian mission, and the ways to develop the spirit of mission and to serve the Church through various ministries. Parishes should encourage more laity to pursuit self-formation and life long formation, e.g. by sponsoring some faithful for further training, and offering opportunities to these parishioners to develop what they have learned after completion of their training. The deanery can on its own group together those within its area, who have completed their training and offer them adequate freedom and support (both materially and spiritually), so that they can plan for activities or courses of faith formation.
17. Increase contacts with Christians “who have little sense of belonging towards the parish”
It is necessary to increment the awareness of all the faithful to actively contact Christians “who have little sense of belonging towards the parish”. The staff of the parish should all the more be aware of their attitude towards the faithful. The Diocese should hold training courses for all secretaries of parishes, reinforce training in their reception manners and attitudes, and increase the sense of service within the Church. The parish should try to understand the recent conditions and needs of the faithful in occasions of child baptism, weddings or funerals, and invite them to take part again in the life of the Church. The parish should actively assist those who have newly moved in or seldom appear in the church, welcome them to take part in parish life, e.g. joining associations or small communities of faith, encourage their children to join Sunday School etc. On the other hand, pastoral ministers of the parish should actively liaise with Catholic schools in the district, make use of good occasions to contact catholic parents, and to hold formation activities for or introduce parish life to them.
18. Develop Small Christian Communities
Parishes should provide training for or pay visits to different small Christian communities, and encourage mutual visits among such groups. Through mutual contact and support, they may experience concretely the spirit of one family in the Church. Pastoral ministers of the parish should dedicatedly encourage more laity with charism of leadership to come forward, and actively invite and encourage them to receive relevant formation. Institutions of formation should provide more materials for small Christian community meetings, and to organize appropriate training activities, and to lend support when crises appear in such communities.
19. Parish pastoral council team building
Formation institutions of the Diocese should design special training courses or activities for officers of parish pastoral council. Through lively activities, games, role plays etc., with special focus on team building, inter- personal communication, such courses should enable participants to build up relationships of cooperation, enhance problem solving ability, foster team spirit, and increment techniques of empowerment and negotiation etc. They will be helpful for the planning of the future pastoral direction and concrete manageable projects of the entire parish, as well as guiding the council members to live according to their Christian mission and communitarian spirit. Parish priests should participate in such courses. This will be beneficial for mutual cooperation and communion in the council. It is especially good for the relationship of cooperation, communion, love and forgiveness between the faithful and the clergy. At the same time, it is necessary to re-adopt pastoral team system in parishes (composed of priests, pastoral sisters and pastoral assistants), so that the clergy and the laity become co-responsible for the pastoral work of the parish.
20. Increment exchanges between parishes
Besides promoting the sharing among officers of parish pastoral councils in their plenary sessions, the Central Council of Catholic Laity should increase sharing and communication between parishes, and deepen the spirit of communion and cooperation within the Church through mutual learning and support. The Council of Laity could consider establishing parish chat stations on its website, inviting all officers in each parish to share, through words and pictures, the present situation of their parishes and their experiences of running programs.
21. Promote Catechism of the Catholic Church
It is necessary to encourage the laity to deepen their knowledge of the catechism of the Catholic Church. At the same time, the content of the Catechism can also be organized as a series of simple formation courses. Through sharing, activities, questions, games and cases etc., the relationship between doctrines and daily lives can be illustrated. Diocesan institutes or groups can provide materials aimed at introducing in a simple way the relationship between the doctrines and daily living. Such materials can be sent to and printed by the parishes for their faithful. It is necessary to organize continued formation courses for the newly baptized, and oblige them to take part during mystagogical period. These courses should provide continued faith formation systematically and briefly for the newly baptized, and offer channels for faith formation by oneself later. Diocesan institutes or groups working in the field of formation can utilize information technology to render the content of the catechism more vividly and interactively, and to provide ways of self formation for the laity by producing self study CDs or placing such materials on web-sites.
22. Promote the social teachings of the Catholic Church
Relevant institutions and communities should let the laity know this unique treasure of the Catholic Church in a new way and facilitate the integration of social teachings with their living environment. Social concern groups of the parishes through different ways, e.g. websites, CDs, training courses, workshops, quiz, simple pamphlets etc., and at different levels of the Church (schools, parishes, Caritas etc.) can help the faithful in this regard to know more and to live accordingly, so as to facilitate them to respond to and reflect on their working environment, and to face the attacks and challenges of the social culture. Catechists should encourage catechumens to reflect on the problems of daily living based on the principles of the Church’s social teaching, It can be conducted in the form of a seminar on specific topics, in order to enable catechumens to investigate deeper into and reflect on the challenges faced by faith and daily living.
23. Promote Reading Habit among the Laity
Other than the Catholic Truth Society, the Diocese should encourage and support other printing press in the Church to publish books of greater variety concerning faith. At different levels, the laity should be helped to acquire a habit of reading religious publications especially the Church Document, e.g. during the period of catechesis, catechumens would be required to produce reports (either oral or written) of religious books of their own choice and to share them with other catechumens. Institutions and groups of formation and publications should periodically recommend good religious books to the faithful. Every year, ten books can be chosen by the laity for general recommendation. It is necessary to establish reading groups in the parish, and to invite printing press to hold book exhibition or activities to promote new books.
24. Environmental Protection
It is recommended that in the areas of lay formation, life of faith and community activities, renewed emphasis should be given to the doctrine of Father as Creator, so as to appreciate, value and bless together with the Father what He has created (Gen. 1:1-2:3), in order to enable the faithful understand clearly to obey to the Father and care for ecology is an essential part of Catholic faith. In attitude and in practice, it is necessary to extend widely our respect towards life and human dignity to other creatures. In our prayers and liturgy, we have to know how to praise the Lord with the entire creation. Formation master such as priests, sisters, catechists, and formation institutions, other formation groups, parishes, schools etc. are urgently requested to include the concern for ecology into their agenda, to consider adding such courses and training in which the theology and spirituality of ecology is regarded as an essential part, so that full integration can be reached between “heaven, earth, and man”. This is to correct what was lacking by the limits set in the formation of the past which concerns only the relationship between God and man and the relationships among men. Therefore, we suggest that “heaven, earth, and man” should become the complete and integral measure, the standard and principle of faith formation, the process of its planning and evaluation. Effective formation is actual practice in life and consequential actions, thus, we suggest that the laity should participate more in activities of environmental protection, and adopt or support environment concern actions. As an important aspect of formation, parishes should relocate the topic of environmental protection from its marginal and ignorable position to a high priority in their activities and planning agenda. We also suggest the Diocese set up a commission for environmental protection to enhance the above mentioned suggestions, and to respond and contribute appropriately to social policies and situations concerning environmental protection.
25. Utilize information technology for catechism revision courses
Besides the Catechetical Correspondence Course offered by the Central Council of Catholic Laity (including text model and web model), it is hoped that other institutions (Diocesan Audio-Visual center and Diocesan Laity Formation Office etc.) can make use of information technology, to produce multi-media catechism revision courses, by means of self- learning CDs and websites etc., emphasizing interaction and interest. Such courses can even provide teachers who will hold periodic meetings as follow up for the learning process. Furthermore, course content should be centered around the integration of faith and daily lives.
26. Concentrate resources for the promotion of laity formation
Under the coordination of one or more Diocesan units (or a newly establish one) to set up a faith formation resource internet platform, and bring together the tables of content of various institutes and communities in the Diocese, so as to facilitate the users to find data about faith. The interactive function of this formation resource platform should be increased, so that users may express their views after using different formation resources (e.g. religious books, songs, films etc.). In this way, we may increment an atmosphere of discussion, and sharing between one another on the website. Other functions including daily bible emails, electronic faith cards, to listen (or watch) formation talks or testimony given by the laity, interviews with special guests, recent events both of the universal and local Church, advertising of formation activities, ordering of religious and spiritual books etc., all the above may enhance the interest and demand for faith formation.
27. Increase the cooperation and coordination between Diocesan institutions and Communities
The Diocese should strengthen the communication, exchange, cooperation and partnership between Diocesan Commission, Institutions and Communities working for the formation of the laity. It should especially support the work of faith formation of the parishes, and lay down guidelines for cooperation among groups, e.g. the seven units of the Diocese and communities that constitute the parish social concern support group which is already set up, in order to support the work of formation of the parishes in the area of social concern.
28. Expand Laity Formation Foundation
This means another fund raising activity, in order to increase the amount of fund for the Foundation, so that it could assist more laity for self-formation and life-long formation and at the same time to extend its area of coverage. With regard to screening the applications, there should be more flexibility, e.g. including the support of daily life expenses of overseas courses, and require all applicants to contribution to the Church (e.g. drafting an action plan) after the completion of their courses. Besides supporting the laity in further training, the Foundation can support various organizations or parishes in their effort of running innovative and effective activities of a formative nature, e.g. inviting overseas specialists or groups to conduct activities of formation.
29. Mechanism for the Planning and Coordinating of Pastoral Assistants
In order to plan, coordinate and develop the ministry of parish pastoral assistant more effectively, the Diocese should adopt a mechanism as soon as possible, to study and define the work nature of pastoral assistants, their qualifications, the procedures of centralized recruitment, content of pre-service and in-service training, procedures for handling disputes, centralized deployment etc., and to carry out relevant rules and regulations. Then after, periodic formation meetings are to be held, to facilitate sharing and exchange among pastoral assistants. Those working in parishes should meet periodically to promote sharing and mutual support. It is most desirable to have a representative of the Diocese to be their support and coordinator.
30. Utilize the graduates of the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy and the Biblical Institute as manpower resources of Pastoral Work
The Diocese should give importance to, affirm their value and utilize the students and graduates of the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy and the Biblical Institute and see them as manpower resources for its pastoral work. It should conduct centralized recruitment exercise of parish pastoral assistants every year from among suitable candidates of these graduates. The Diocese (or a newly set up body) after duly consulted the interested pastoral assistants and parish priests, would send pastoral assistants to work in appropriate and needy parishes. In workable ideal circumstances, the pastoral assistant should join in the pastoral team, and together with priests and sisters sharing the responsibility and cooperating in communion, promote the parish pastoral work, e.g. support small communities of faith, promote faith formation, plan for the work of evangelization etc. The Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy and the Biblical Institute should collaborate with relevant Diocesan bodies to provide for those students or graduates who are interested in becoming full time pastoral assistants appropriate training courses in pastoral work, including theory input and arrange for field practices.
31. We recommend the appointment of an Episcopal Delegate for youth ministry on the Diocese level. She/he will execute the related policy, and will act as the coordinator of various youth groups, so as to facilitate pastoral activities effectively and efficiently.
** 32. We recommend the establishment in each parish of a full-time Pastoral Assistant for youth services (PAYS). The post will be responsible for planning and execution of the pastoral works for youth in parish. The candidate needs to line up the whole team of volunteers to form a “work group for youth pastoral services”. The group should be integrated into the parish structure in order to survive. It is also vital that youth ministry should be closely connected with the parish ministry.
* 33. The work group should mobilize the adult parishioners to care and to lead the adolescents, whereas the adolescents in turn will lead the kids. The group will take care of the needs of all youth activities in the parish, and will secure for, and administrate a proper venue for such activities. They will liaison with schools, catholic and non-catholic, in the district, in order to foster pastoral ministry in schools. Meanwhile, they will install basic groups for youth of different ages, students and workers.
34. We propose to set up a “youth corner” in each parish, providing regular space for various functions including meeting and gathering.
35. There should be a decent place for study and revision on top of other youth activities. Young members should be encouraged to participate in building “study cells” where elder brothers and sisters can help the younger breeds. This fraternal service in fact is based on reciprocal care and help. The cells, obviously, constitute ideal space for building up Christian communities.
36. A healthy catholic family broods healthy young catholic. The parish is expected to organise gatherings for catholic parents for sharing and learning.
37. Sunday school and class for the sacrament of confirmation play a vital role in youth ministry. The Diocese should decide upon the age for the reception of the sacrament, and emphasize its significance. In fact, this will facilitate the installation of a comprehensive strategy for youth ministry.
38. The Diocese should design training programs for catholic youth on personal growth and on enhancing faith.
39. Parish should install “Action Group for Vocation” to encourage young catholic to respond to God’s call.
* 40. The Diocese should organize leadership-training programs for youth to recruit suitable leaders for youth ministry at all levels.
41. Each parish should work out a pastoral plan for youth ministry; it should include reasonable financial supports for various activities. We recommend the Diocese to establish a youth foundation, thereby all groups can apply for subsidies in order to support various activities in the parish. We also recommend the Diocese to set up various prizes to encourage creative young talents in music, drama, dance, literature, and audio-visuals.
42. To implement the theory and practice of catholic education, administrators in catholic schools should have sufficient knowledge and formation in catholic doctrine. We recommend that relevant qualifications in the field should be duly considered in recruitment and promotion. Preference should be given to qualifications in theology & philosophy, religious studies, biblical studies, catechetic, liturgy, etc. from catholic higher education institutes, local and overseas, on top of the practising Christian life of the candidate.
43. School administration should also reinforce such training for new recruits. Besides, the Diocese and the school authorities should organise regular formation programs for head-teachers and catholic teachers.
44. Each catholic school, in addition to regular Religious Studies lessons, should have an extra class for catholic (for Christian formation) and non-catholic students (for spiritual formation). It serves to teach the practice of the Divine Word and the Commandments in daily life, to foster friendship among peers, and to create an amiable and exam-free atmosphere to discuss faith.
45. Schools should assign at least a Religious Day every month, where extra-curricular hours will be reserved only for religious activities. To foster the sense of evangelisation, students will be entrusted to design and run these activities.
46. There should be a pastoral assistant for each school to assist in and execute religious activities.
47. Schools can work with other diocesan groups in training catholic student leaders.
48. Diocese should offer substantial supports for pastoral works in school. We recommend the Bishop or his delegate should visit each and every diocesan secondary school at least once a year. The parish should maintain an amiable partnership with the catholic schools in its juridical territory, e.g. parish and related schools share the employment of pastoral assistants, the recruitment of volunteers, and the organisation of faith formation activities.
49. Members of parish and secondary KatSo should be encouraged to join KatSo in colleges. Meanwhile, we should emphasize the importance of the parish as the base for lifelong spiritual formation.
50. We recommend the Diocese to appoint a full-time clergy to take care of the youth ministry for higher education.
51. Diocesan organizations should provide various supports and resources to KatSo in tertiary institutions to encourage formation activities, for example, FCS and KatSo should be subsidized, Diocesan organizations including church and seminary are encouraged to offer rooms and space to KatSo members for various functions, diocesan groups which provide youth services should take initiative to liaison with KatSo to organize joint programs, such as youth expedition to under-privileged districts for college students to consolidate Christian belief, or, entertaining activities like youth concerts to evangelise non-catholic students and to provide catholic university students a channel to join the mission.
52. There should be at least one pastoral worker (clergy, nun, or laity) for each deanery; she/he should be a full-time partner for young workers, thus establishing an official mechanism to support their cell groups.
53. Multi-function rooms should be set up at different proper places for working youth so that their needs will be met and their voices be heard.
54. The current services at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers and the Diocesan Youth Commission Office should be reinforced and promoted, e.g., expanding the services, reinforcing the public relations, increasing personnel, implementing the ideals of “Ministry” for working youth.
55. Graduates at any level (secondary, tertiary) should be notified of related youth activities that lead to a better understanding of work, and of how to work with faith, so that they will keep up with their faith once they are initiated into society.
56. Young workers should be encouraged to form all types of cell groups, including the basic Christian communities, and various servicing groups. These can be divided according to job nature so that young workers can receive acknowledgements and supports from their work colleagues, share their lives and faith.
57. In the annual budget and planning, parish council should include a plan for its working youth, a plan of formation in faith and spiritual life, for example, to strengthen the faith of young people who join parish volunteer work.
58. Catholic employers are urged to give reasonable salaries and respect the spirit of the Mandatory Provident Fund, for example by never offering less than 60 days contract. Introduce a family wage in Catholic Institutions. Catholic employers to be encouraged to share their wealth with low income employees through the provision of staff medical benefits, or housing scheme/allowance, or children education allowance, or widow allowance.
59. Diocese to create job opportunity schemes for the poor, so that they are exposed to work experience and do not need to rely on CSSA on a long-term basis. It is recommended that Caritas assist in the formation of mutual help groups and offer training in cooking, hairdressing, flower arranging, housekeeping to enable the poor to develop the means of earning a living and overcoming their economic difficulties.
60. Diocese to strengthen the existing system or set up a new group to follow in depth the poverty issue and to encourage the faithful to work towards the elimination of poverty by providing assistance to the needy in the neighbourhood and in the parish.
61. Diocesan and Religious schools may provide special care other than the free education to the children of poor families.
* 62. Parish-Support: Parishes to set up a network and list to understand the backgrounds and needs of those in need in their area (e.g. the elderly living alone, street sleepers, sex workers and ethnic minorities) in order to offer service and support. Parishes should offer formation to parishioners to enable them to accept the marginalized and those with special needs.
* 63. Persons with physical handicaps: Improve the access and related facilities in Church, Service Building, Retreat Houses, Pastoral Centres and all church organizations for those with disabilities, e.g. construction of slopes, elevators, toilets for people with disabilities, Braille Bibles, hymn books and parish newsletters, earphones for the hearing impaired to listen to homilies during Mass and sign language interpreter during liturgies. Reserve seats for the disabled so that it is easier for them to adapt and be looked after. Parishes can form groups to show concern for persons with physical handicaps and mobilise volunteers to assist them to participate in church activities.
64. Persons with mental handicaps: At each deanery level, assist persons with mental handicaps in the area to form Small Faith Communities, and, if possible, to have a spiritual leader who is a priest, Religious brother or sister. These groups can meet once or twice a month to develop friendship and mutual trust as well as to deepen spiritual life. Mobilise and train people who are concerned for persons with mental handicaps so that they can be the promoter, pastoral worker (need special training) and leader of these groups.
65. Formation of workers and employers organisation
Parish and deanery are encouraged to organise groups for workers and employers, so that they can have life sharing to lead to improvement in working conditions. These groups should also organise catechism courses and courses on the social teachings of the church. Through sharing, both the employers and workers can understand the problems faced today, so that they may be in a better position to understand the workers’ dignity and rights, the value of their work and their mission. The Catholic Diocese as an employer has to set a good example of dialogue with employees and to implement the Social Teachings of the Church. Through not only fulfilling the basic labour requirements of the Government, it can improve labour relations and build trust through church workers organisations which discuss and resolve difficulties with the employees.
66. Strengthening of the Work of the Catholic labour Commission
To enhance the prophetic role in society, the Church should fight for the arena to speak out and develop formation. The Labour Commission’s existing research work should be strengthened. They may pay more attention to and analyse the changes in the work situation, provide faith reflection and speak out for these groups, conduct a comprehensive survey on labour-related policy, present the Church’s position, and, if necessary, join with other social groups to initiate actions to improve living situations. Their work needs better coordination.
67. Priests’ participation
The Diocese needs more priests to participate in the labour movement. To show support, the Church should appoint at least part time priests to assist the workers’ organisations.
At deanery and parish levels, priests, pastoral workers, members of parish formation groups and social concerns groups have to understand the problems faced by workers today in order that they can give more support to the labor. Seminarians and permanent deacons’ pastoral internship should include some exposure to labour-related positions. The catechumen curriculum should include sections on workers’ rights and Catholic Social Teachings.
69. At the diocesan and parish level: to advocate for the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on protection of the rights of all migrants and members of their families. Where possible and where it corresponds to Church Teaching, there should be more involvement in Government sponsored programs/projects related to migrants such as AIDS prevention, environment campaigns, protection of women, racial discrimination in work etc. To network with national, regional and international forum/groups especially the Asian Migrants’ Desk.
70. To institute a Migrants’ Day according to the instruction on the Pastoral Care of People who Migrate from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. The Diocese should offer more pastoral services to migrant workers and should encourage parishioners who hire domestic helpers to pay the basic wage and to give them a day off.
71. To conscientize the local Christian communities (priests, religious, parishioners, schools) to respond to the dehumanisation of migrant workers. Parishes should provide not only liturgical services, physical structures and programs but also opportunities for integrating and growing as a truly Christian community. Parish should also be aware of their social needs, providing appropriate programs, formation and co-ordination, and initiate activities that will improve communication and mutual understanding between the migrant workers and local people.
72. Change in Attitude
Each parish to respond to the World Migrants’ Day. This day is set aside for Christians to grow in an attitude of understanding and dialogue; to improve human relationships, reduce inter-cultural gaps and discrimination, increase sensitivity to the needs of others and appreciation of multiplicity of cultures; Christian groups, families or institutions, to accept new arrivals in a spirit of openness and help them to integrate into society.
73. Pledge Support
The Church to join force to show our hospitality and support to the new arrivals. Each parish or association is invited to pledge to support a number of new arrival families who are in financial difficulty or a number of newly arrived children, the amount possibly decided by the New Arrivals Pastoral Commission.
74. Set up Mutual Help Groups
Parish social concern group and other parish groups to set up social support groups, parents’ group. These groups will meet occasionally for mutual support, self-help, to alleviate stress in urban living, to learn to cope with parental responsibilities and daily living, and to enhance their understanding and love of family life and human relationships, to bring about peace and unity in an integrated society. Parishes and Caritas can cooperate and set up a social network system in the neighbourhood to render support to the single elderly, and those who are at risk or need special help.
75. Formation for Spirituality of Ecology
Encourage education on environmental ethics and the concept that abuse of creation is a sin – to be included in Sunday schools, catechism course and religious education curriculum. Liturgy may also include the praises of nature, through traditional Chinese celebrations such as appreciation for the beauty of the moon at mid-Autumn Festival. The diocesan audio-visual center to produce programmes to deepen a spirituality of ecology. Parishes are encouraged to hold a Sunday liturgy on environment on or around June 5 – World Environment Day. Special Liturgy, tree plantings and gardening are suggested. Church organisations should call for peace and an end to violence, so as to prevent wars that will destroy nature.
76. Spirituality of ecology and simplicity of life
Clerics and pastoral workers to remind the Catholics to respect the earth and creation through homilies, penitential rites and retreats. Simple life: Christians should lead a simple life. Parishes are encouraged to organise more vegetarian spiritual programmes, and to avoid wasting food and resources and to keep parish celebrations simple.
77. Church’s collective participation
Church schools and organizations should urge meal providers not to use Styrofoam and non-recyclable utensils, and to provide healthy food. Diocese ought to adopt a policy of using recycled paper in all departments. It is recommended that the Diocese set up an organic garden for parishioners to experience green life.
78. Monitoring Government and district eco-policies
The Church ought to speak out on environmental matters and advocate for an equal distribution of resources. Parishes should monitor district-wide environmental matters and voice opinions as well as urge District Board members and Legislative Council members to promote and monitor the environmental situations in the district.
During elections, Catholics should consider political candidates’ platform and attitude to environment issues. Catholics should demand that the Government dialogue with the industries that pollute the environment and implement a policy of recycling materials like paper and bottles. People’s environmental rights should be respected and we should monitor the equal distribution of resources in improving the environment, especially in low-income areas.
79. Pastoral Care
The Diocese is to increase pastoral care resources and personnel (both full time workers and volunteers), upgrade professional status and personal emoluments of pastoral care workers so that they can be well accepted by other healthcare professionals to join the team for holistic care.
* 80. Establishment of a medical and healthcare professional body
A statutory body of the Diocese comprising lay representatives of various Catholic medical and healthcare professional organisations should be formed to communicate with the curia to make timely and appropriate response on healthcare issues, especially medical ethical issues.
The Diocese should respond to specific issues, for instance, healthcare financing issues and make official statements on issues like euthanasia, abortion, medical reforms, cloning of organs and embryos.
In Catholic Hospitals, there should be briefing/orientation sessions on ethics. More time and resources should be designated for education in attitudes, values and ethics.
* 81. Health care services for elderly patients
As healthcare services provided by the Government for elderly are not enough, the Diocese could set up a special task force to investigate this issue and make/implement recommendations. (e.g. consider setting up elderly homes/services.)
The number of elderly homes is increasing so the Diocese could recommend that each Parish increase visits to elderly homes.
Parishes can seek assistance from Caritas, Catholic Doctors’ Guild, Catholic Nurses’ Guild so as to nurture attitudes of care and concern for the elderly in the neighbourhood as well as to provide support/care to needy singletons and the chronically ill in the vicinity.
82. Formation and Services
i) Mental Health: Since there are quite a number of needy in various Parishes, the Diocese/Parishes should organise teams to actively provide service. Parishes can help those who have recovered from mental illnesses to build up a spirit of confidence based on Gospel values and which will lead to integrating into the community.
ii) People with AIDS: Parishes should introduce the experience of people with HIV/AIDS and promote the prevention of transmission of the virus in order to avoid discriminating against those infected and to ensure that they receive the support and respect they need. Promote recruitment of volunteers from the parishes for AIDS service agencies.
83. Palliative Care
To promote palliative care in Private Catholic Hospitals.
** 84. The Church leaders, as a prophetic, social conscience and moral force, should speak out on social justice or influential social events when appropriate, and provide guidance to the laity. Moreover, Catholics and Church organisations should be encouraged to express opinions related to justice according to the Church’s social teachings and employ appropriate strategies to affect public opinions and social policies.
85. Transparency, openness and participation should characterize all levels of the Church, including diocesan, parish, school, community centres and so on. In the everyday running of the Parish Council the parish should aim at co-responsibility and collective leadership, so as to build a participatory Church. The parish finance committee should make detailed and regular reports to the parish council and publicize these reports to the parishioners through the newsletter or notice board.
86. The Church or this Diocesan Synod should take appropriate measures to express publicly the wish of electing the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage as soon as possible.
87. Diocesan and parish organizations, Church schools and catechumenates should integrate social concern activities into their programmes. Civic education and education on values, especially core values which are cherished by the Church, need to be strengthened. In order to deepen their religious faith and strengthen their commitment to the common good of our city.
In order to deepen their religious faith and strengthen their commitment to the common good of our city, retreats and days of recollection for politicians and officials who are Christians could be promoted.
88. Where not yet established, social concern groups should be set up at the parish level and related church institutions should provide support to them. Parish social concern groups should strengthen their cooperation and coordination. Together with diocesan social concern institutions, they are encouraged to hold regular meetings at deanery, district and the whole region level, to exchange experiences, discuss joint projects (e.g. organise training) and discuss strategies to respond to concrete social issues.
* 89. Personal approach is the most effective way of evangelization. Individual Catholics are encouraged to make good use of personal contacts in their own state of life as an opportunity for spreading the Good News.
Each individual Catholic should attend at least one evangelization formation program, and take part in at least one public evangelization activity.
In the span of one year, introduce at least one non-Catholic to a Church function.
In the span of one year, introduce at least one non-Catholic to catechumenate class.
90. The working population should realize that in their respective professions, they participate in the work for the betterment of the world. Hence, they should work happily, emphasize professional ethics and responsibilities, respect and enjoy their profession. By doing so, they can become the good yeast. In their respective professions, they spread the good news to their own colleagues through words and life witness. The best life witness is to follow Christ and live and spread His spirit of love for all.
91. Catholic domestic helpers are encouraged to propagate the Good News to non-Christian members of their employers’ families, especially the young children.
92. Read The Acts of the Apostles in the “Evangelization Year”, so as to become aware of their evangelical mission. The diocese should also invite relevant people, e.g. the HK Catholic Biblical Institute, to provide guidance for the reading of Acts.
93. Design evangelization websites to help Catholics become aware of their evangelical mission, and provide non-Catholics with an opportunity to know the gospel.
Individual Catholics should make good use of their own places (offices, homes, etc.) and their particular profession to carry out the mission of evangelization, and to become the yeast of evangelization in society.
94. The diocese, parishes and Catholic groups should positively encourage and openly support the faithful to take the initiative to use different means to spread the gospel.
95. Catholics can make good use of opportunities to carry out inter-religious dialogue, since this is also one way of introducing the gospel of Christ to others. In searching for common areas, we can understand the gospel, God, and our Catholic faith more thoroughly and from a wider perspective. We can experience the spirit of the gospel, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the presence of God in other religions. In learning about the other religions and simultaneously introducing our Catholic belief to others, different religions can enrich one another.
96. In order that the family becomes a place for evangelization, Catholic family members should try to influence other members in the family with their speech and life witness.
Catholic family members should take the initiative to invite other family members to pray together for the needy and the sick in the family.
Catholic family members should decorate their homes in order to create a religious atmosphere.
97. At least once a year, the whole family should attend a Church activity together.
Each family should have at least one Bible. They are encouraged to read to Gospel, and to read and share on The Acts of the Apostles in the “Evangelization Year”, so as to remind family members of their evangelical mission.
Once a month, the whole family should pray together for “evangelization”, e.g. by saying the Rosary.
98. To consolidate community life, the group should strengthen its activities of evangelization ad gentes. Therefore, at least once a year, each group should carry out or participate in an evangelization activity.
The groups should systematically share on The Acts of the Apostles, so as to kindle the evangelical spirit within the community.
Catholic groups should use “evangelization” as one of the themes of their annual plan.
99. At least once a month invite Catholic teachers or students to share their personal faith experience during the morning assembly, as a way to spread the gospel.
Catholic teachers, staff and students should spread the gospel to their non-Catholic counterparts by their life witness and speech.
100. Schools should be furnished so as to create a religious artistic environment, such as placing holy statues, crosses, books, posters, accompanied by religious music, etc. in order to edify non-Catholic teachers and students.
101. Schools should make special decorations for Church feast days, by which to promote the faith.
Schools should consider organizing the catechumenate class, providing the opportunity for students to learn about the Catholic faith. They should also introduce to students and parents resources on the Catholic faith provided by the Church.
102. Organize parents’ meetings, enabling parents to benefit from evangelization activities.
Schools can organize evangelization activities through parents and teachers associations (e.g. Christmas party).
103. Schools and parishes should work closely together in promoting evangelization activities; schools can employ pastoral worker or assign teacher to this task.
Schools can cooperate with parishes in organizing evangelical gatherings for Catholic schools in the respective areas.
* 104. The parish council should have an annual plan and vision for evangelization.
The parish council should have an evangelization committee to carry out the evangelization work of the whole parish.
105. Catechumenate classes in the parish should pay special attention to the formation of the catechumens in their evangelical mission, and to provide the catechumens with an opportunity to evangelize even before their baptism. In this way, they will become evangelizers after baptism.
Diversified channels should be available to enable people to be aware of God at an initial stage, serving as the means to learn about Catholic faith before attending the catechumenate class. The Church should support and recognize these channels.
106. The priests and pastoral workers in the parish should strike a balance between their pastoral and evangelization work.
* 107. Assign the month of October of each year to be the “evangelization month”.
The diocese should set up an Evangelization Commission or assign existing Commission to promote evangelization work of the whole diocese.
The diocese should consider setting up a school for evangelization, to serve as a place for the ongoing formation of evangelizers.
Organizations and bureaus in the diocese, especially the seminary in forming seminarians, should strengthen the awareness of evangelization ad extra.
108. The diocese should do something concrete to enable Catholics pay more attention to evangelization work, both locally and overseas, paying special attention to the needs of the poor and the weak.
* 109. The diocesan mass media organizations and bureaus should give first priority to evangelization ad gentes.
The Church has established many public service organizations, such as hospitals, hostels, and social service institutions, etc. These organizations should increase the awareness and work of evangelization, and should witness the joy brought by the Gospel; from this joyful experience they spread the Good News. Catholic schools should also do the same.
Extensive use of multi-media for evangelization work, such as the mass media, electronic board, etc. Moreover, evangelization wordings can be developed to create an evangelization culture and awareness.
110. It is time for Catholics in Hong Kong to carry on the spirit of evangelization ad extra of the foreign missionaries, fulfilling evangelization work abroad. The scope will also include evangelizing people who come to Hong Kong from abroad to work or study.
** 111. In order to proceed with a well-prepared evangelization plan, each Catholic must first have internal renewal. The drafting group suggests that there should be a one-year preparation period which lasts from Mission Sunday 2002 to Mission Sunday 2003.
First of all, a Diocesan Evangelization Commission should be established. The Commission would be responsible for coordinating, promoting and supporting the evangelization work of the whole diocese.
In the first year, the Diocesan Evangelization Commission should coordinate human resources, establish working groups, carry out promotion and publicity work, and prepare materials on evangelization, such as leaflets, books, audio-visual means, etc. It should also assist the diocesan organizations, groups, parishes, and individuals to bring to full play the evangelical spirit. Hence evangelization work at all levels is carried out in an interactive and communal spirit.
The Diocesan Evangelization Commission assigns a Sunday to carry out a “$10 Campaign for Evangelization” to raise funds for evangelization work.
Organize training courses to help parishes train leaders in evangelization work, who will lead the parish and groups in evangelization work.
Print prayers, songs, and slogans to prepare for the commencement of the “Evangelization Year”.
Invite parishes and groups to respond concretely to the theme of the “Evangelization Year” in its annual planning for the coming year, so that the spirituality and activities of parishes, groups, and individuals can be in line with the aim of the “Evangelization Year”.
112. Lay down a concrete and feasible target for evangelization. Our group suggests aiming at 10,000 new Catholics by the end of the “Evangelization Year”.
113. Call on every Catholic in the diocese to pray for “evangelization work” during the preparation year, and especially invite the Catholic prayer groups and the elderly to support the project strongly with their prayers.
114. “Evangelization Year” can be seen as a warm-up activity of the long-term evangelization plan. Within the period of one year or so, every level of the Hong Kong Diocese is mobilized to evangelize ad gentes. They can follow the recommendations of the “long-term evangelization plan” and evangelize in their state of life. The drafting group suggests that the “Evangelization Year” begins on Mission Sunday 2003 and lasts until Easter 2005.
115. An evaluation would be conducted every six months to monitor the direction and progress. At Easter 2005 when the “Evangelization Year” ends, there will be an overall evaluation to formulate the long-term evangelization plan of the diocese. It is hoped that thereafter every Catholic will have a stronger sense of spreading the gospel, and becomes more active in evangelization ad gentes.
** 116. Conscientisation
The Diocese should help the faithful to become more aware of the fact that it is necessary for them to receive ongoing formation so as to achieve a fruitful marriage and a happy family life. The following are some concrete suggestions:
a. The Diocese can publish leaflets about marriage formation, to be mailed or distributed to registered Catholic families by parishes every year, so that Catholics (including those who do not attend Sunday Mass) may know there is such a thing as formation for marriage.
b. The Diocese can publish a “Pastoral Guide to Marriage and the Family”, copies of which are to be distributed by parishes to every Catholic who gives notice of his/her marriage, so that he/she can have some information about premarriage formation at least six months before an intended marriage, and can take an active part in the formation programmes.
c. Special activities relating to marriage and family life can be organized at various levels (e.g. diocesan, deanery and parish levels), such as celebrating marriage anniversaries, the Feast of the Holy Family, Valentine’s Day, Fathers’/Mothers’ Day, etc.; enhancing the esteem of the faithful for a successful marriage and a happy family through experience – sharing on exemplary marriages, a liturgy for renewing the marriage commitment and the witnessing to sound parent-child relationships, etc.
d. Making the best use of the Sunday homily and experience-sharing, in compliance with the liturgical seasons and readings, to explain the Christian values of marriage and the family.
e. Bearing in mind the limitations of human resources and the number of attendants, it would be more appropriate that some of the formation programmes on marriage and family life (e.g., talks and courses presented as a series) be organized at the deanery level.
* 117. Premarriage Formation
a. Publish a “Family Catechism” for the use of catechumens and the faithful.
b. Enforce more vigorously the diocesan regulations “notice of a marriage must be given at least six months in advance” and “premarriage formation is required”. Priests working in parishes should familiarize themselves with the relevant Diocesan norms concerning marriage. They have the primary responsibility to explain both the goal and the significance of premarriage formation to those preparing for their marriage, so as to help them respond positively to their vocation as married couples. Parish secretaries should, as far as it lies within their responsibilities, familiarize themselves with the relevant Diocesan norms concerning marriage. They should also assist the faithful in a friendly way with the wedding formalities.
c. Pastors should make good use of such occasions as premarriage inquiry, wedding rehearsals and wedding ceremonies to consolidate the formation of the newly weds.
d. Provide a more substantial premarriage preparation, taking into due consideration the programmes of existing organizations and channels in the Diocese [e.g., Hong Kong Catholic Marriage Advisory Council (CMAC), Caritas Family Service, courses organized by pastors, etc.]; offer short-term (about two days), medium-term (about six months by stages) and long-term premarriage formation programmes for the Catholics to choose from.
The basic content of the formation includes: the physiology and psychology of man and woman; interpersonal communications (including communications with the parents-in-law); Christian values of marriage and the family; ways of growing into mature individuals who are able to love and make commitments to self-giving; Natural Family Planning (NPF) ; the essential elements of a happy marriage.
e. Establish resource centres at the Diocesan level or make use of existing ones (such as Caritas – Hong Kong) to provide reference information on formation for marriage and family life.
f. Consolidate the training of voluntary couples who assist in premarriage formation.
* 118. Ongoing Formation after Marriage
a. The organizations which have provided marriage and family life formation for couples (e.g., CMAC and Caritas Family Service) are recommended to set up mechanisms which can facilitate the contacts between them and the newly married couples in the first few years of their marriage, with a view to receiving ongoing formation, and the key points of which include: Ways conducive to sound interpersonal (including the parents-in-law) relationships and communication; maintaining sound communication and intimacy between husband and wife; learning to accept, to give support to, and to show understanding towards the other party with a forgiving heart; maintaining a harmonious sexual life; getting to know the characteristics of each party’s personality and the distinctive features of different stages of marriage, with a view to becoming more well adjusted with each other; paying special attention to the spirituality of married life so that both parties may grow and attain sanctity together.
b. The Parish Council (Parish Pastoral Council) must draw up an annual pastoral plan on “marriage and family life” and, according to its ability, promote Christian family life and reinforce the existing related groups, such as ecclesial basic communities involving families, couples’ groups, women’s groups, men’s groups, etc.
* 119. Responsible Parenthood
a. There is the need for a more vigorous promotion of Natural Family Planning (NFP) with related formation programmes, so that couples can learn how to plan for childbearing.
b. Sex education of children: Parents should realize that they play an irreplaceable role in the education of their children on family life and marriage. Parents should not shirk their responsibilities towards the senior members in the family and/or domestic helpers. They have the right and the obligation to provide sex education for their children and to this end they themselves should likewise receive relevant formation. They can also ask organizations, whose objects are in keeping with the Christian faith, for assistance.
c. Christian family life: The family is an important place for witness to Christian faith, so parents should live out their faith in earnest, and put God’s Word into practice. They should see to it that their children are baptized as soon as possible after birth; they should also, by word and deed, bring up their children in the Christian faith.
d. Parents’ Association for Sunday School Children, Parents’ and Teachers’ Association and Catholic Parents’ Association in Catholic Schools: These associations should be set up, and, if they are already set up, one should make the best use of them. Parents should be helpful and steadfast co-workers in the field of education, in accordance with the 18th Recommendation (No.152) in the Synodal document on ” Education and Culture”.
120. Irregular Sexual Relationships between Unmarried Persons: Premarital Sex, Free Love, One Night Stand, Trial Marriages and Cohabitation.
The cases listed above are more and more common in Hong Kong, undermining marriage as an institution, family life, moral values and social stability. As long-term preventive measures, integrated courses on sex education should be provided for teenagers in Catholic schools; related courses should be incorporated into Sunday schools and the youth formation programmes in parishes; and in particular, the virtue of chastity should be fostered. Besides, the Diocese can analyze the social and cultural factors leading to the above phenomena, and cooperate with the general public and related government departments to look for the means of tackling them.
As for Catholics or their partners who find themselves in the above situations, parish pastors/pastoral workers can help them, through friendly conversations, pastoral counselling and the sacrament of reconciliation, or refer them to social workers. Unmarried mothers or women seeking abortion may be referred to pro-life organizations run by the Church or other bodies.
121. Catholics in Civil Marriages
The Church should explain to lapsed Catholics who marry civilly, that, although from the point of view of civil law, they have made a commitment to a properly-defined and probably stable state of life, their marriages lack the faith and ecclesial dimensions. Similar to those Catholics who simply cohabit with others, they live a life that violates the moral values held by Christian faith, so that they may not be admitted to the sacraments. Pastors should, with a friendly approach, help these Catholics to put their faith into practice and to “convalidate”their marriage in the Church as soon as possible. In the case of a Catholic whose spouse vigorously opposes a church ceremony, the pastor should ratify the marriage in accordance with a special provision of the Code of Canon Law.
Foreword Couples who are in difficult situations can be classified into three groups: husbands and wives becoming seriously estranged as their love for each other diminishes; husbands and wives being separated from each other; husbands and wives not respecting the unity and fidelity of marriage. Pastors, pastoral workers, counsellors and tutors responsible for formation at all levels (parishes, deaneries and the Diocese) should help these couples to intensify their awareness of the importance of marital relationships and through the liturgy and various kinds of activities help them realize that whether or not the marital relationship can last depends on the efforts of both husband and wife. Provided the couple make every effort, the marriage can be as enduring and as happy as they want it to be. There are ups and downs in the relations between any couple, so they need to be continually nurtured.
122. Husbands and Wives becoming seriously estranged as their Love for each other diminishes
It is normal for every couple to experience a cooling of their mutual affection. Properly handled, this situation can deepen their mutual understanding and become an opportunity to enhance their marital relation and a step forward in such a growing process. However, when a couple’s serious estrangement surfaces, pastors and pastoral workers in parishes should encourage the husband and wife to actively face and tackle their problems from the outset. They can encourage such couples who seek help, telling them to become more open and to communicate with their spouse more often. They should help these couples understand that though sexual life is important for enhancing their intimacy, heart-to-heart communication is equally important; besides, both approaches to the problem are interrelated and interactive. Pastors can encourage a couple (or the party who is more positive) to create a harmonious atmosphere and more opportunities for communication. They should also encourage a couple to join an ecclesial basic community for couples, so that they may share experiences on their married life with the other members, and with them explore new ways to improve the husband-wife relationship, and take part in the activities of related organizations and groups for improving the husband-wife relationship. Such a couple should also seek professional counselling.
123. Husbands and Wives being Separated from Each Other
Pastors/pastoral workers in parishes should take the initiative to respond to these kinds of problems, reminding a couple who live apart from each other that they should keep a balance between their family life and their careers. During the period of separation, a couple should be encouraged to maintain daily communication and contact through different channels, so as to express their mutual love and care and keep the other party informed of the daily circumstances of their children. Catholics should take an active part in the life of their local parish, give importance to their spiritual life and remember their spouse in their daily prayers. Husbands and wives must do their utmost to stay away from temptations and pray to God for the grace to overcome them. Parishes should also set up groups for spouses who are living apart, so that with the same living experience they can encourage one other and share creative ways of alleviating the estrangement brought about by separation between husband and wife.
124. Husbands and Wives not respecting the Unity and Fidelity of Marriage (Extra-marital Sex/Concubinage/Procuring Prostitutes)
A couple should face and tackle these problems from the outset. Pastors should arrange to meet with the couple, with both parties together and with each party separately. A pastor should first of all refrain from passing rash judgements on the “unfaithful party”, and with a listening attitude try to grasp his/her situation. Having gained his/her trust, the pastor can then help him/her to be aware of the harm that his/her infidelity has brought to his/her spouse and family. The party should be encouraged to give up his/her old self and be reconciled with his/her spouse. A pastor is recommended to invite experienced people (such as those who have overcome similar problems or those with counselling experience) to be “companions” to the “unfaithful party”, to help him/her get through this trying period. If necessary, the party can also receive professional counselling with an open heart.
Other than the assistance mentioned above, the “faithful party” should be given emotional support, so that his/her wounds may be healed.
Pastors can encourage those Catholics who have once been “unfaithful”, but have later been reconciled with their spouses, to give testimony and to share their own precious experiences as couples who have actually gone through difficulties, so as to help those in similar situations. Pastors can also encourage “those who have given testimony” to receive training and become “companions” themselves.
* 125. Pastoral Problems brought about by Divorces and Remarriages
Pastors and the faithful should have empathy with those whose marriages have failed.
Pastoral workers engaged in marriage and family ministry should remind the divorced Catholics who remarry or Catholics who marry divorcees to try to adopt the following procedures:
(1) to seek help, first of all, from the ecclesiastical marriage tribunal-some marriages can be annulled according to the Code of Canon Law, or dissolved in favour of the Christian faith.
(2) If the above procedure does not work, and the Catholic party concerned cannot be separated from the other party for serious reasons (e.g., they must bring up their children together), then the Catholic party, with the guidance of the confessor, can receive the sacraments on meeting the following two requirements :
(a) Both parties of the marriage take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence [that is, by abstinence from the acts reserved to married couples (who are properly married in the eyes of the Church)], and to live together as if they were brother and sister;
(b) The Catholic party would not cause scandals when he/she receives Holy Communion in public nor lead to misunderstandings on the part of the other faithful.
If neither procedure (1) nor procedure (2) can be adopted, pastors and the faithful should help the divorced and remarried Catholics or Catholics who have married divorcees, not to feel that they have broken away from or being abandoned by the Church. As baptized persons, these Catholics can, and indeed should, share the life of the Church in the following ways: they should be encouraged to listen to God’s Word, attend Masses (but not to receive Holy Communion), pray with perseverance, undertake works of penance, take part in promoting justice and peace, and bring up their children in the Catholic faith. Through these means, they will surely obtain the grace of conversion and salvation.
Pastoral workers/leaders of parish volunteers should assist the pastors in setting up small groups with similar family backgrounds, so as to give emotional support and be companions to the above families.
The Diocese is recommended to train more clerics and lay people to share the ever-increasing workload of the ecclesiastical marriage tribunal.
For those who have unsuccessfully approached the ecclesiastical marriage tribunal for help, the Diocese is recommended to assign more people (such as married permanent deacons, pastoral assistants, religious brothers and sisters) to provide counselling services, so that those faithful may continue to keep a close tie with the Church.
Pastors should let Catholics know that if they have grave reasons for regulating the number of children or adjusting the intervals between births, they should take into consideration Natural Family Planning (NFP) which is intrinsically open to procreation. Among many Church members, including clerics, the medical profession and ordinary Catholics, there are quite a lot of misunderstandings about the NFP. One misunderstanding is that the NFP is “unreliable”. In fact, the NFP (e.g., Sympto-thermal Method or Billings Ovulation Method) is the only method approved by Church teaching. It is highly effective and has no side-effects. Therefore, the positive aspects of the NPF should be vigorously promoted at various levels-the Diocese, parishes, schools and adult catechism classes. Couples who have been successful with the NFP should also be invited to give witness and share their own experience. And with voluntary tutors receiving strict training provided by such professional organizations as CMAC and Caritas-Hong Kong Family Service, the aim “one NFP counselling station in every parish” can hopefully be achieved. Couples, especially those who do not adopt the NFP owing to lack of knowledge or techniques, should be encouraged to make good use of the present resources, like CMAC and the various NFP counselling centres of Caritas-Hong Kong. Those couples who do not adopt the NFP owing to a refusal on the part of their spouse to cooperate, should seek counselling from pastors.
In order to put an end to abortions, it is necessary to promote through education, a correct outlook on life among the general public. Pastoral workers and the faithful should encourage those Catholics who have had abortions to reconcile themselves with God through the sacrament of penance and pray for the dead babies, helping them to overcome the traumas caused by abortion. If necessary, these Catholics can also seek help from experienced counsellors. Pastors can encourage them to transform their own bitter experiences into strength, which can be put at the disposal of others: sharing their past experiences with women intending to have an abortion, and encouraging them to overcome their present difficulties and keep their babies. Pastors and pastoral workers can refer those who have the need, like unmarried mothers or pregnant women, to competent organizations (“The Birthright Society”, “Mother’s Choice”, etc.), so that they can have a place to stay before giving birth, or make arrangements for the adoption of their babies.
The Diocese and the faithful must give their full support to organizations which protect the right to be born. The Diocese must staunchly uphold its stand: all Catholic hospitals and Catholic professionals and workers in the medical field must not perform or assist in direct abortions. All the information about the protection of the right to be born should be listed in the “Family Practical Guide” for reference.
* 128. Family and Faith Problems related to Mixed Marriages
80% of the marriages in our Diocese are mixed marriages. It is always fitting, therefore, for pastors to make the as-yet-unmarried Catholics aware of the potential family and faith problems that can be brought about by mixed marriages. Pastors should remind those Catholics who have the intention of marrying non-Catholics, to have more dialogue with their future spouses on how to live in harmony with each other after marriage in accordance with the principles of religious freedom. They should also deepen the formation of Catholics who are planning to marry, so that they are able to practise their faith after marriage, and try their best to let their children receive Catholic baptism and upbringing. If possible, Catholic pastors can cooperate with pastors of other Christian Churches or Ecclesial Communities to help the bride and bridegroom prepare for their wedding.
Pastors should encourage the Catholic party in a mixed marriage to respect the religious faith of the other party, if the latter is a member of another Christian Church or Ecclesial Community, or a member of another religion. Pastors should also remind the Catholic party to abide by the commitment to faith made before marriage. The pastoral workers concerned should use different means to help the Catholic party keep close contact with the parish community after marriage.
Parishes are recommended to organize more activities for couples of mixed marriages, e.g. liturgical celebrations (e.g. renewing the marriage vows on the Feast of the Holy Family), children-parents’ gatherings (e.g. joint birthday party for children) and talks on family life education. Parishes are also recommended to cordially invite the non-Catholic spouses to participate in some specially designed courses, so that they can understand the outlook on life of their Catholic spouses and to enhance harmony in the family. Besides, parishes can set up catechism classes for the non-Catholic spouses, accompanied by their Catholic spouses.
* 129. Single-parent Families
Single-parent families, whatever might have caused them (separation, divorce or bereavement of one’s spouse), should be cared for by Church communities, especially parish communities. Regular visits to these families would be helpful in understanding their practical needs. Parish communities should try their best to help the parents concerned to improve the quality of education for their children, and assist these children in the areas of education, school information and techniques for better learning. When these families fall into dire poverty, parish communities (e.g. Society of St. Vincent de Paul) can help them to meet their urgent material needs, or to apply for public assistance or have recourse to other arrangements.
Pastors should encourage the divorced Catholics and their children to seek family or group professional counselling that deals with the consequences brought about by the separation of the spouses or the parents.
Groups of people whose families are in similar situations (e.g., the divorced or single-parent families) can be set up at the deanery level, and relevant assistance provided for them in regard to information, human resources or peer-groups. (It is not so appropriate for such groups to be set up at the parish level, since the parties concerned could be easily labelled.)
Domestic churches (i.e. families whose members are all Catholics) have a special mission towards the single-parent families: they should open their doors to welcome the visits of the children of single-parent families whom they know, allowing these children to share their own family life and to have some experience of the roles and behaviour models of different family members.
130. Deviations in Children’s Behaviour
The reasons for the deviations (e.g. addiction to drugs, joining triad societies) in children’s behaviour are complex, and the problems probably have no short-term solutions. Parish pastors and communities should give support to the Catholic parents concerned, so that they could take care of these children with love and patience. Parents are encouraged to be more cooperative with schools attended by their children, to join hands with the teachers and social workers there, with a view to bringing their children back to the right path, and to help their children cultivate a right sense of judgement, so that they would not be easily influenced and misled (e.g. by peers and the media). If necessary, the parents are to be encouraged to seek professional family counselling.
131. Abuse of Children, Family Violence
Victims in such cases as abuse of children and family violence, especially in sexual assaults, are usually reluctant to report their bitter experiences. Therefore, pastors should be sensitive to their needs when helping them. If the personal security of Catholics, their children or their family is involved, pastors and pastoral workers should encourage the Catholics not to keep silent to avoid embarassment or adopt an appeasing attitude towards the aggressors, but to face their problems and look for solutions, e.g., seeking appropriate professional counselling, or seeking instant and appropriate protection in an emergency by calling the police, or by the intervention of the Social Welfare Department or “Harmony House”, etc. If the aggressor is the spouse, the aggrieved party may consider separation.
132. Proper Attitudes in dealing with Marriage and Family Problems
The various difficult situations mentioned above, whether caused by human failings or brought about against one’s wishes, definitely bring pressure and pain to the parties involved and to their families. Pastors must imitate Christ the Good Shepherd, and with patience, wisdom and prudence, distinguish between different situations so as to show pastoral solicitude with empathy.
Those who seek help and those who offer help in the above difficult circumstances, must not neglect the importance of prayer. Prayer is the source of strength, and God’s graces can make up for human deficiencies.
** 133. Setting up a “Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family” (abbr. as “PCMF”)
Since, at present, there are only organizations engaged independently in marriage and family pastoral care in our Diocese without a co-ordinating body, the setting up of a “PCMF” at the diocesan level is proposed. This body will be responsible for coordinating and consolidating the existing services and for formation related to marriage and family life; for following up on and periodically evaluating the implementation of all the concrete proposals made in this document; and for formulating and promoting new pastoral strategies.
Responsibilities of the PCMF may include:
i) To publish the “Family Catechism”, “Pastoral Guide to Marriage and the Family”, “Family Prayer Book” and “Family Practical Guide”;
— “Family Catechism”: It introduces the meaning and mission of Christian marriage, and providing a family spirituality and basic information for Catholic families in the light of the local situation of Hong Kong, etc.
— “Pastoral Guide to Marriage and the Family”: It deals with the basic contents, stages and methods for formation and counselling before and after marriage, ensuring that Church teachings on marriage (including pre-marital sex, de facto free unions, trial marriages, mixed marriages, birth regulation, religious formation of children by parents, divorces, under what circumstances divorced Catholics or non-Catholics can remarry validly according to Canon Law, etc.) are accompanied by sound pastoral principles. The Guide keeps a balance in presenting the information on the different aspects – doctrinal, pedagogical, legal and medical – concerning marriage. The Guide also enables Catholics who are entering marriage and those who are already married to realize that it is not enough to acquire knowledge about the family, but that, in addition, they should actively fulfill the evangelical mission of Catholic families, participating in the life of Church and working together to build up the Kingdom of Heaven.
— “Family Prayer Book”: teaching Catholics the art of family prayers.
— “Family Practical Guide”: mainly for facilitating pastoral workers and the faithful in promptly referring Catholics who have marriage or family problems to appropriate professional counsellors or institutions.
ii) To publish a periodical (e.g., a brief monthly newsletter) to report on the work and activities of the PCMF; to provide information on formation programmes and activities for marriage and family life at the parish level; to provide short articles on marriage and family life. The PCMF is recommended to have its own homepage.
iii) To create new media communications (or make good use of existing ones, such as those operated by Caritas, the Diocesan Office for Laity Formation and the Diocesan Audio-Visual Centre) such as resources centre, telephone hotlines, websites, emails, chat rooms, the production of VCDs, a special column in Kung Kao Po, etc;
iv) To study and put into practice the recommendations of the Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio”;
v) To promote natural family planning;
vi) To advocate a Pro-Life culture;
vii) To promote the virtue of chastity;
viii) To set up funds so as to provide doctrinal formation and pastoral training for voluntary workers recommended by parishes, with the assistance of professional organizations (e.g., CMAC and Caritas).
ix) To provide pastors with a channel for further training, so that they may cope with the contemporary needs of marriage and the family, and to provide professional training to pastors specifically responsible for marriage and family pastoral care;
x) To discuss the feasibility of setting up a “Diocesan Marriage and Family Research Centre”.
Members of the PCMF may include: Catholic married couples, a representative from the professional family service organizations, a representative from organizations engaged in marriage and family pastoral care, Catholic professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, social workers), priests, a married permanent deacon, a religious Sister and a religious Brother, etc.
* 134. Setting up a “Parochial Pastoral Committee for the Family” (abbr. as “PPCF”)
The setting up of the PPCF is aimed at coping with and supporting the plans and services of the PCMF. Guidelines for the PPCF can be promulgated by the Diocese. The PPCF can operate, giving due regard for the functions of existing related organizations in the parish, or it can merge with them.
Responsibilities of the PPCF may include –
Coordinating and supporting the plans and services of the PCMF:
i) Taking into due consideration the plans of the PCMF, to provide premarriage formation for the faithful and ongoing formation after marriage;
ii) To provide formation on “natural family planning” as promoted by PCMF;
iii) To recommend mature couples showing potential to the PCMF, so that they can take part in marriage and family life pastoral services, and if possible become long-term voluntary workers;
iv) To coordinate and implement the pastoral plans for marriage and family life as drawn up by the Parish Council (Parish Pastoral Council);
v) To organize various kinds of activities for enhancing family harmony and strengthening family ties;
vi) To organize couple and family gatherings and promote family prayers;
vii) To make good use of the cultural festivals (such as the Fathers’ Day, the Mother’s Day) and other celebrations (such as birthday, wedding anniversary) for the promotion of family life and the enhancing of children-parents relationships;
viii) To promote family visits, putting love and care into action and enhancing the sense of the family as a community;
ix) To show concern for: the elderly, couples living apart and single-parent families, as well as issues involving abuse of children and family violence, etc., in the parish;
x) To reinforce marriage and family consultation services;
xi) To set up a marriage and family life bookshelf;
xii) To provide referral services relating to material and spiritual needs, for couples whose marriages are in danger of breaking up or have already broken up;
xiii) To help teenagers live by the true values of marriage and family life, and to develop a mature personality (which involves sound relationships with family members, a proper attitude towards friendship, emotional stability, etc.);
xiv) To convey to teenagers the positive messages of an enduring marriage and a happy family, especially through dramas and music which are more appealing to them.
In order to save resources and to encourage participation, some of the proposals mentioned above can be carried out at the deanery level.
* 135. The major mission of Catholic education is as follows: with Christ as the foundation of the whole educational enterprise, to endeavour to present the Christian concept of life according to the Gospel and the invaluable core of Chinese culture, so as to generate human attitudes and help youth and students to cultivate wisdom and virtues, pursue the truth, verify merits and develop into persons who cherish human values and who are sound in body and mind, persons of compassion, and persons with civic responsibility, a discerning mind, moral courage and creativity.
136. The above mission should be adopted as the primary aim of all Catholic schools and educators and be used as the basis for annual evaluations.
137. The Diocese should develop a comprehensive education system embracing kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, community colleges and a university, which cherish the same ideals and adopt unified curricula.
* 138. Holistic education should include spiritual, moral, intellectual, physical, social and aesthetic formation. In order to give students more time to receive holistic education, schools should make appropriate tailoring and consolidation of their curricula. Furthermore, with the provision of holistic education, schools should adopt multi-faceted appraisals for students, which include not only intellectual assessments, but also assessments in non-academic areas such as spiritual, moral, physical, social and aesthetic formation.