Chapter 17 Middle Aged

I look back at 1981 as being a turning point in my life. I was now fifty years of age. Jesuit Superiors take great care of us, and their policy was to offer those who were around fifty years of age, a time of rest to plan and prepare for the last part of their lives. It could be a year of study or even for preparation for another field of activity. In Wah Yan, I have seen some teachers leave after some years of teaching for higher studies, to emigrate, or other work. What then of me?

Jesuit superiors knew of my eagerness to be a missionary, a preacher and to do priestly work. I was assigned to teach in Wah Yan in 1967, as they saw it as a preferred field of work for me. I had taught in Wah Yan College, but it was not my principal focus of interest. I was active in saying Masses, preaching, and engaged in activities which could be called pastoral, social and environmental. The option was now given me of study to equip me for future work, other than secondary school teaching. I could take a degree in education, but I was not interested in educational management or direction. I could study for a Master’s in Biology, but I feared study and did not want to teach Biology. I could take up counseling or spiritual direction. Then there were the options of going elsewhere for Jesuit work. I knew the pastoral needs in the Philippines and felt I could do well there.

I was give plenty of time to decide, and I employed my holidays in Ireland to look around at parish work, teaching in secondary schools, and other fields of Jesuit work in Ireland and Britain. My conclusion was that I could do more in a day in Hong Kong than in a week or month elsewhere!

Along with this were personal emotional problems, which challenged my life as a teacher in Wah Yan. Eventually, I decided I did not want any degrees or diplomas or other qualifications. I had enough knowledge and experience for what I wanted to do in Hong Kong.

There was also a great change in my orientation and vision in life. My three week visit in China in 1979 with other missionaries showed me clearly that I was not suitable to live there! I began to see my previous years of teaching in Wah Yan in a different light. By teaching, I was not only supporting myself, as any person must think about, but doing important work in helping young teenagers to develop and grow into the fullness of adult life in a strong Catholic context. I felt I was capable of helping these teenagers, and indirectly helping their parents in the development of their son. I saw too that Wah Yan was forming MEN with and for OTHERS.

In parishes, I knew there were very few teenagers, and influence on them was rather peripheral. By teaching two classes of forty boys each, for more than twenty periods a week, I was contributing to a deeper formation of teenagers. I considered that I could do much better missionary work in a classroom than in a parish. Furthermore, there were many more young people one could contact in school than in a parish. Gradually I came around to see that my best contribution could be in continuing to teach English and Ethics at Form Three in Wah Yan College, Kowloon. I now wanted to continue what I had been doing in the past fifteen years. And I even envisioned keeping on after the age of sixty, as so many of my Jesuit predecessors had done.

There was another issue that I solved in my own unique way. With the precarious future of Hong Kong causing anxiety to many, I now fell in with the policy of the Hong Kong Diocese, to walk into the future with the Catholics in Hong Kong and the people of Hong Kong. I determined that I would work as a priest in Hong Kong, no matter what political changes came. Being of a socialistic mould of mind, and with my experience of socialist governments in Ireland, and for that matter in the UK and most of Europe, I was not afraid of a take over by the Beijing administration. I would stay on in Hong Kong and offer my services as an English teacher, which I knew was wanted.

In Ireland in 1985, I joined forty other Irish Jesuits in a retreat, which lasted more than two weeks. It was in spiritual discernment for our Jesuit lives and mission. Here I was with people I had known in the past, along with the younger men who were now in positions of responsibility. I heard the discussion of how we were to work for the Kingdom of God, especially by working for new social structures of justice for all, and to live and be with the poor. The Irish context of the day presented the option of schools that were non fee paying, while the famous Jesuit schools were mostly fee paying. Should the Jesuits withdraw from teaching children of upper classes and teach in free schools with students from less privileged families?

I was proud of Wah Yan College, where there were voluntary aided schools, and we were one of them, and so able to give talented students the best of education. The first three years of secondary school have no school fees since 1975, and after that the fees are a fraction of that in private schools. The majority of students would not have financial difficulties in studying in Wah Yan. This thinking late in the 1990s made the Jesuit decision in Hong Kong not to opt for Direct Subsidy status, which would mean high school fees, and so narrow the ability to enter the school for the majority of talented students. Thus I was confirmed in my decision to stay on teaching in Wah Yan as my contribution to education and social welfare in society.

There was another step I took which I have not dared explain to others. I decided never again to travel by air! I considered air travel is not for the poor, so I made the option of not travelling by plane. That would mean that I would not return to Ireland again, so I bade farewell to one and all when I was in Ireland in 1985. After all when I was young, missionaries were sent out to work and preach and not expected to return to their home country. Then my decision not to travel by air, was just an extension of a resolution I made in 1972, never to be in a private car, when I was assessing environmental destruction. In Hong Kong where public transport is probably the best in the world, it is not so strange not to use a private car. I would always encourage people to walk or take public transport, and if necessary to take the ever-present taxis, which I sometimes use.

There was another factor in this strange decision. With the signing of the Sino-British Memorandum, the sovereignty of Hong Kong would be resumed by the Beijing administration by 1997. This made many Catholics worried, especially those with children. What future was there for their children! So they emigrated, if they could. Along with them were Catholic Priests and Sisters who considered that they would do better work elsewhere. I was going to stay and walk hand in hand with the Catholic Church here, and also the people of Hong Kong. As a protest to those emigrating, I said that I had burnt my passport! Few understood.

I found I did not need to travel out of Hong Kong, for health reasons or spiritual reasons. In fact I felt that life in Hong Kong was now better than in the Ireland I knew in the 1950s! Anyway, I found that people who travelled built up interests and contacts abroad which distracted from full life in Hong Kong.

In a word, by 1985, I saw my future in continuing Form Three education in Wah Yan Kowloon, and pastoral and missionary work in Hong Kong.

There was another issue and it was my withdrawal from many activities outside the school. I had been with the Education Action Group since 1968, with the Better World Movement since 1966, and with the Conservancy Association since 1967. In 1982, I retired from these activities, feeling I did not have the strength to help. Also I began to feel that many of these issues had become so sophisticated that I had no expertise to offer. I was taking on another level of middle aged living which I could sustain living in semi-retirement. (1,475)

第十七章 人到中年



耶穌會會長知道我渴望成為傳教士,傳道士,和做教士工作,一九六七年我被委派到華仁教書,因他們認為寧可給我這工作。我在華仁教書,並不是我主要興趣焦點。我很積極講彌撒,傳道,和忙於牧民,社區和環保的活動。現在我可以自由選擇,我不一定要在中學教書,我可以為未來工作裝備自己; 我可以修讀教育學位,但我對教育行政或管理都不感興趣; 我可以讀一個生物碩士學位,但我怕讀書和不想教生物; 我可以負起顧問或靈性的指導工作; 還有到別處做耶穌會工作的選擇,我知道菲律賓需要牧民的工作,我覺得我在那媟|做得不錯。



還有,在我的方針和人生夢想有很巨大的轉變,在一九七九年,我與其他傳教士到中國訪問三星期,很清晰顯示我是不適宜生活在中國! 我開始看到在華仁教書的不同光景。我教書,不衹可以維生養自己,這是每一個人必要考慮的問題,還可以負起很重大的工作,那是幫助青少年發展和成長,成為一個有濃厚天主教意識的完整成年人。我覺得我有能力幫助這些青少年,而間接幫助了他們父母,培育他們的兒子的發展,我同時意識到華仁是培育「人」與人,及為「其他人」的人。


還有一個個人的決定,我不敢向別人解釋,就是我決定永遠不再搭飛機旅遊! 我認為飛機旅遊不是為窮人而設的,所以,我決定不再搭飛機外出,這表示我再不能夠回愛爾蘭了。在一九八五年我回到愛爾蘭,我向愛爾蘭的所有人告別。不竟,當我年青時,很多傳教士被派出國,為人民服務是不會期望再回到自己國家的,這個決定,其實是我於一九七二年作出決定的延續,那時我看到環境的破壞決定永遠不再坐私家車。在香港,有世界上差不多是最好的公共交通系統,不用私家車是很平常的,我時常鼓勵大家多行路或乘搭公共交通工具。

當中英聯合聲明簽定後,一九九七年香港主權回歸北京政府,令很多天主教徒很焦慮,特別是有子女的,為他們子女的前途擔心,如果他們有能力便移民他去,有些天主教神父,修女也認為到別處服務更佳,我留下來,與此地的天主教堂和香港人一起同步共進,為了反對那些要移民的人,我說我已燒掉了的護照! 有多少人能明白呢!