Chapter 6 Philippine Experience

Since 1978, I have been saying Saturday noon Mass for Filipino Domestic Helpers with El Shaddai, a Catholic Community. These good people make a contribution to home life in Hong Kong, especially with families, where the mother is working and theylook after the children and house work.. At most English Masses, in Rosary Church or St. Teresa’s Church, and even St. Ignatius Chapel, there are a good number of Filipino Catholics. I like them and I feel that I know their background, all because of my four years in the Philippines from June 1962 to March 1966.

I deliberately chose to go to the Philippines to prepare for missionary work in China. The attraction was to be with sixty other young Jesuits preparing for work with Chinese people. They were in Baguio at Bellarmine College, which was the Chinese Jesuit Seminary that had moved there from Shanghai in 1951.

Two years senior to me was Francis Doyle. He was the first Irish Jesuit to go there in 1960. He was a close friend of mine. I wrote to him explaining that I was not a linguist and had not progressed much in Chinese studies, but hoped to work in China. Would he advise me to join him in Theology at Baguio? He encouraged me, and so I went there to prepare the better for work in China. And I nearly changed my mind about my future when I got to know the wonderful Filipino people, as I was much taken by them!

Travel to the Philippines in those days was not by air but by boat, as air travel was then limited to rich people. Consequently, I was put on a 38 hour boat trip on a Danish cargo ship at the end of May 1962. The trip was exciting as I was the only passenger! I had a special place for “priest” at the Captain’s table, with five of the ship’s officers.

Arrived in Manila, I was dressed in a white suit with a clerical collar, as was the custom in Hong Kong. But I caused quite a sensation. Children came to kiss my hand and people admired me. They thought I was dressed like their Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal, as all pictures of him had him wearing something like a clerical collar and a white suit! This was my grand entry to the Philippines. However, within days, I dressed in a long white cassock, called a soutain, which was required to be worn by every priest and student of the priesthood. From now on, there was no worry about what to wear, as it had to be the white cassock. The trouble was how to keep the ankle length white garment clean. This was easy in the house but very difficult on roads, public places and public transport, and especially in wet weather.

My four years in the Philippines were wonderful. In fact, life for me was so good that I wondered if I had not made a mistake in going to Hong Kong! Here I was highly respected as a priest and needed by Catholics for liturgical and social occasions. And what was more, the ratio of Catholics to priests in the Philippines was something like 25,000 Catholics to one Priest. In Hong Kong it was more like 2,000 Catholics to one Priest.

I had deliberately chosen to study Theology in the Philippines because I wanted to be in a Chinese speaking house of studies, and with Jesuits who were studying to be missionaries among Chinese people. I was weak at learning languages and had mastered only a little in two years. I considered it important to be with Chinese Jesuits and with other Jesuits destined to be missionaries in China. Here in Baguio City, Bellarmine College were sixty Jesuits studying to be priests in China, and I hoped to better learn Chinese! What amazed me was that I was looked up as an authority on what was correct in the English language!

The lectures were to be in Latin, as in most seminaries. There were about twenty Jesuits from various parts of China, so Mandarin was a language of the house. I intended to master that spoken language! In fact, I was able to learn very little.

In the first places, I am not a linguist. Then I am not hard working. And finally there was a big change in the Jesuits who were studying there. Young Jesuits who had been in Vietnam joined us in my second year, so Mandarin had to be phased out, since the newly arrived Jesuits had not learned Chinese.

I found myself admired by the Professors who saw in me many qualities they hoped to find in new missionaries for China. I was very regular in observing all that was required. I was cheerful and active. As for studies, they immediately saw my qualities, which did not include intellectual or theological expertise! But they appreciated my outgoing orientation and interests in mixing with people and relating to them as a Jesuit.

The Superior was an Austrian, Fr. Karl Steinmetz. He had been in formation of Chinese priests and was inclined to pastoral work. He encouraged my interests and liked what I did and said. He also gave me special jobs outside the Seminary. Other professors were active visiting prisons and families; some organized Catholic classes in the public schools, and I joined them in teaching on my free day, which was Thursday. I got along very well with most people- we were to be missionaries, happy and active, helpful and practical! I felt on top of the world.

During those years between 1962 and 1966, the Second Vatican Council was in session. We were very interested the modern thinking and deliberations of the Bishops in Rome. I was very much in favour of many of the changes that were being brought in by the Bishops from all over the world meeting in Rome.

And under the direction of our Professors, we were thinking of our Mission in China and how to bring the Gospel in terms adapted to Chinese people. This was what I wanted, and I seemed to have every help I thought I needed.

I fitted in well with the European mix in the College, the Italians and Spaniards, the South Americans and Canadians, and of course the Chinese. The spirit of the College was very free and happy.

With my concerns still on The Theory of Evolution, I did my master’s degree on The Thinking of Teilhard de Chardin on Evolution. I spoke of my work at a formal open public lecture, which I gave on that topic, to which many were invited. My thinking was that the world and cosmos is in a process of development, adding the theological thinking of a controversial French Jesuit- Teilhard de Chardin.

Activities outside the College were with Filipinos. I got to learn their ways and admired them. I was just happy there. I owe much to the Filipino people for their hospitality and friendship during those years. They trained me for my priestly ministry with the Filipino Catholics in Hong Kong, with whom I have been every weekend since 1978.

Bellarmine College at Baguio City gave me four happy years of my life and I loved life in the Philippines. Now the time had come for the next step.

I had written a formal letter to my Superior in Hong Kong, stating that I did not want anything to do with the WahYan Colleges, which seemed to me to be for the privileged. I want specifically priestly work. To my surprise, I received a warm and welcoming response. Jesuits in Malaysia had just taken on three parishes. Young Jesuits were needed! I was then asked to go to Malaysia for four months in May, before returning to Ireland for my last year of spiritual formation. I was delighted.

In the event, my four eventful months of parish work in Malaysia showed me that I was not for parish work, and furthermore, the context of Malaya was not Chinese enough for me. So I was to return to Hong Kong in 1967.

I must say that those four years in the Philippines were some of the happiest in my life. And the longer I am in Hong Kong, the more similarities I see between Hong Kong people and those in the Philippines! My life with the other Jesuits was enriching. Some of them went back to their country, but many spent years in Taiwan. Jesuit life is moving to where the Lord calls.

At the age of 35, I was a fully formed priest in 1966. I went to the next stage of a year of spirituality back to Ireland. After six years of absence, I was eager to eat well, and catch up on all that had happened during the six years I was away in the East Asia! I gave retreats and spent some weeks in a parish in England. I visited family members and renewed friendships, but my heart was for Hong Kong.

Before returning to Hong Kong, I had a rich experience of being in Lahore, Pakistan for three months, May to August 1967. And I was the only other Jesuit in that country. It was a good experience of Catholic life in an Islamic setting. I was asked to remain in Pakistan where I saw I could do much. But I felt my vocation was with the Chinese people. I returned to Wah Yan College, Kowloon on the 27th Aug 1967.

With my classmates studying Theology at Bellarmine College, Baguio

In 1965 Left to right: Louis Robert( Canada) Julian Elizalde ( Spain) Felipe Gomez( Spain) self, Artur Villegas( Columbia)Louis Gutheintz( Austria) Claude Blaquaire( France) Andres Gingras( Canada).

第六章 菲律賓的經驗

自一九七八年開始,我會到一個天主教團體El Shaddai ,為菲律賓家庭助理開特別彌撤,他們是好人,對香港的家庭生活有很大的貢獻,特別是那些母親出外工作的家庭。大部份的英文彌撤在玫瑰經教堂或聖德勤撤堂舉行,甚至在聖依納爵教堂,那埵釵n一些菲律賓天主教徒。我喜歡他們及覺得我了解他們的背景,皆因我自一九六二年六月至一九六六年三月,曾在菲律賓生活了四年。

我為了準備到中國傳教,我特意選擇去菲律賓,是為了可以與另外六十位年青的耶穌會士一起準備到中國傳教。他們都在碧瑤的包拂巴里書院 (Bellarmine College),那是一間中國耶穌會神學院,在一九四九年由上海搬遷到碧瑤來的。

我想在一個講中文的環境下,與耶穌會士及當中還有些是中國人,一起修讀成為傳教士,為此我特意選擇到菲律賓修讀神學。我學習語言能力很弱,學了兩年也衹能掌握一點。我認為與中國人的耶穌會士和其他要去中國傳教的耶蘇會士在一起是很重要的。在碧瑤市的包拂巴里書院,有六十位耶蘇會士在修讀成為中國的傳教士,我也很希望學好中文! 而令我感到驚愕的,是我被尊為準確英語的權威。

會長卡神父(Fr. Karl Steinmetz)是奧地利人,他曾培訓中國藉耶穌會士,他喜歡牧民工作,他鼓勵我做我有興趣的事,他喜歡我所做的事和所說的話,他還給我神學院以外的特別工作。其他教授積極地探訪監獄和家庭,有些在公立學校組織天主教徒班,我星期四有空便加入他們一起教書,我和大部份人都相處融洽,我們將成為傳教士,我們快樂、主動、實事求事! 我對一切感到滿意。