The following story was published in the Jesuits newsletter
“Interfuse” - Autumn 2002 No. 113
Hong Kong from Sacred Space
by Gerry Bourke
(Sacred Space is an internet prayer site run by the Irish Jesuits)
One of the joys of responding to “feedback” from Sacred Space, is the contact with people from all over the world that results. When the contact involves a place and people that one has known in the past, it is all the more pleasant. An illustration is this correspondence with Paul Chan in Hong Kong.
Paul Chan’s first message was not unusual. He wrote, “This is a wonderful website for someone trying seriously to find God, to learn about Him and to be with Him. I have found it to be great food for thought, especially when one is finding his way in this busy bustling life. What an oasis in a desert! Thanks be to God.”
My response was in words that I frequently use in acknowledging a first contact: “Thank you, Paul, for your encouraging words. It is consoling to know that you, like so many others all over the world, have been helped in Sacred Space ‘to find God, to learn about Him, and to be with Him’. Please keep us in your prayers – that we may be able to continue this ministry on the Net…”
By return mail came his next letter: “Thank you for your efforts in providing Catholics and those who seek to know more about God all over the world with Sacred Space. The one thing special about the Jesuits is their personal touch, which I have always felt, as I was educated in a Jesuit college in Hong Kong. Recently, I participated in a retreat run by the Jesuits. It has certainly helped me to know better how to pray….”
My response was on a more personal note. “Good to hear, Paul, of you connection with the Jesuits in Hong Kong. Which Wah Yan? Many of my contemporaries served there. God bless their good work, and yours, and, of course, ours….”
His next letter, a detailed one, was not long in coming. “So nice to hear from you again. Yes, I graduated from Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, some 35 years ago. (Paul K.B. Chan graduated from Form 5 in 1967). In fact, I spent nine memorable years in this wonderful school – from Primary 5 to Upper 6. I count myself very fortunate because at that time, many Irish Jesuits served in that school, including the late Fr. Barrett, Fr. Grogan, Fr. Reid, Fr. Lawlor, Fr. McGaley, Fr. McGaley, Fr. McGovern, Fr. Toner, Fr. Brosnan, and Fr. Corbally.
“Right now, I am still keeping in touch with Fr. Deignan, Fr. Foley (through e-mail as he is now serving in Ireland), and Fr. O’Ruorke. All of them have deeply impressed each one of their students, and, in fact, all those who came to know their high moral standards and their teaching. Like many of my contemporaries, I am thankful to each one for what they have done for Hong Kong and for us. Would you know any one of the above-mentioned Fathers? Did you ever visit Hong Kong?
“If ‘the fruit of the pudding is in the eating’, then the Jesuits in Hong Kong should certainly be praised for their work, for they have produced an abundance of leaders in every field – many top civil servants, political leaders (Chairman of the
Democratic Party), legislators and councilors, barristers and solicitors, surgeons and doctors, academics and scholars, accountants and financial experts, engineers and scientists, etc.
“One good thing is that all these graduates are very proud of their alma mater and gather together from time to time in the Wah Yan spirit. We have an alumni association, which holds a worldwide conference from time to time. The next one is next month in Toronto. We are happy to learn that many Jesuits who have served in Wah Yan in the past will come to this gathering.
“Yes, the Jesuits are well respected in Hong Kong and may God continue to bless their apostolic work in the future….”
I responded right away: “Thanks, Paul, for your kind words of praise for the Irish Jesuits in Wah Yan, Hong Kong. I have, indeed, been privileged to know all the Jesuits you mention – some more closely than others. I have also been blessed by a number of visits to Hong Kong, on my way to and from Japan, where I spent most of my life. Like Fathers Foley, Doyle, Farren and Brady, I have settled back in Ireland, after 50 years “on the road”. Through the miracle of the Internet, we can still keep in touch with people all over the world.”
The next morning, May 31, I opened my mail to find this response. “It seems that you, also, are an old Asian hand. God bless you for all the work you have done in this part of the world and now all over the world. Would you be kind enough to say hello to Father Foley when you next see him and tell him how very much we miss him?”
I promised that I would convey his message to Fr. Foley, and I mentioned that I was thinking of quoting our correspondence in Interfuse as an example of what can take place as a result of the e-mail from Sacred Space.
His response came right away. “The Jesuits certainly know how to make good use of their talents – like yourself. Running a publication (for a serious and scholastic group like the Jesuits) and a website must keep you fairly busy. To let more people know about Sacred Space, would you like to publicize it a little bit with the various Wah Yan Past Student Associations? If so, I will be happy to provide some contacts. Kindly let Father Foley know we are expecting him to join us for some Chinese “dim sum” tea at Luk Kwok Restaurant in Central.
“I certainly have no hesitation in expressing my most sincere respect to all the Jesuits openly, and to praise them for all that they have done, both individually and collectively. Please feel free to quote what I have said in any way you deem appropriate. I think they should all know how we feel about them and how grateful we are to them for their guidance, wisdom, and life-long support. To many of the past students, they are much more than teachers; they are, in fact, close friends and wise counsellors, with whom one can feel free to discuss any issues or matters of interest…”