Advent pastoral letter from our bishop 2022
To all our sisters and brothers in Christ,
“That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths” (Is. 2:3b)
Advent Season is a time of waiting with hope for a new beginning. The starting of a new year, moving out of the long dark night after the winter solstice, the coming of Immanuel marks the time of God-with-us and the fulfilment of God’s plan of salvation. For our diocese, this Advent Season is the beginning of something new…..
The Spirit of God has journeyed with us, brought us together, united our hearts, and enlightened our minds throughout the process of feedback collection for the synodality report. Even during the partial quarantine lockdown of Hong Kong, we were able to have training for spiritual conversation and meetings either virtually or physically.
Because of the generous contributions of the participants, 1,278 qualitative surveys were collected. These surveys represented contributions from individuals as well as groups of different sizes. Hence, a lot more than the number of returned surveys had contributed to the findings. We thank God for your generosity.
Our Lord did not only bless us with the participants, but another essential blessing was the team who organized the meetings, collected the data, and ran the analysis under the leadership of Bishop Joseph Ha. Without their tireless and effective efforts, we would not have received a report in time for submission to Rome, nor would we have been able to discern the future direction.
With the report, we had a discernment retreat of the extended Diocesan Consult, i.e., the Consult proper plus the invited lay and religious participants. The materials for the retreat were the yearnings reflected in the report. Our common experience at the retreat was that the Holy Spirit was actively prompting us, helping us discern God’s desired direction for the Diocese in the coming years.
In the coming years, the main focus will be ‘Formation’ in three main sectors: Laity, Young People, and Clergy. The formation and sanctification of the laity, the pastoral support and formation of young people, and the formation as well as ongoing formation of the clergy. Young people are being highlighted due to their apparent decreased presence and the need for special attention for both their own growth and the future of our Church.
Besides the usual intellectual dimension, formation should include spiritual, aesthetical, emotional, volitional, and behavioural dimensions as an integral whole. The ‘Integral human development,’ highlighted by Pope Francis and a popular approach in basic education, is the preferred paradigm for our formation today and in the future.
These three sectors, i.e., the laity, young people, and clergy, are indeed interdependent. At the same time, they have their unique presence and significance in our diocese. None of these sectors can contribute fully to the mission of God on their own. For each will need the support and accompaniment of the other two. In fact, accompaniment is a crucial topic in formation.
Through integral formation and mutual accompaniment, the different sectors of the People of God will be better equipped to journey together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit for a synodal Church, through spiritual conversation and discernment in common.
And to facilitate pilgrims of the different sectors to journey together, small faith communities of different modes will be formed in light of their backgrounds and needs. We envisage that they can be parish-based or particular missions based. Yet, the plurality of these small faith communities will be united under the Mission of the diocese. The liturgical life in the diocese will be enriched by the diversity of Christian living specific to the different small faith communities. The Son of God, our Immanuel, entered our history so as to accompany us, journeying with us towards our salvation. As we anticipate the second coming while celebrating the first coming of the Son of God, we want to affirm that salvation is meant for the entire person and for God’s Creation as a whole. As Catholics of the Diocese of Hong Kong, we look forward to a new dawn of formation of the People of God for growth and synodality, with abundant blessings from the Blessed Trinity.
+ Stephen Chow, SJ