Fr. Isaiah Mary goes on mission to Hong Kong once a year with the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society. He is happy to offer his reflections about his and Tricia Bølle’s trip this past spring. This series will run from July through August. We hope you enjoy!
Was it only a few weeks that I was on top of the IFC Tower, looking into the bay that separated Hong Kong Island from Kawloon? Dragon boat races, Junk boats, milk tea, listening to liturgy in Cantonese, nodding to Buddhist monks on the streets?
Not only did it seems like a lifetime and lifestyle away, in a matter of speaking, it actually was.
This was no vacation. Tricia and I stayed at one Dominican residence, St Albert Priory, in Rosaryhill on Stubbs Road. Daily Mass with the entire Dominican community—priests, novices, and some domestic workers—began at 6:45am. After breakfast with the community, we packed up and took public transportation or a taxi to wherever we needed to go—Wan Chai, Central, Mid-levels, Causeway Bay, you name it.
The bulk of our appointments were Called and Gifted participant interviews. However, we also had an appointment with the Catholic newspaper regarding next year’s workshop. We also met with benefactors who are hoping to help, as well as other Catholics who want us to expand the Young Adults Ministry to the English speaking Catholics. No meeting with the bishop this year.
We found ourselves crossing the territory as though we were in a Family Circus comic. We would return to the Priory between 10:30 and 12:30 that night, just to begin again the next morning.
This was a whirlwind.
But a whirlwind that the Holy Spirit gushed and spun. These many reflections over the last few weeks would begin to tell you how and where the Spirit of Fire was present. Random Masses, Bible Studies, Workshops. The harvest is more than abundant, and the laborers are sparse, and He was leading Tricia and me to odd and lovely places to reap souls for the King.
Because you see, for the English speaking young adults in Hong Kong, there is one program: weekly holy hour at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
So in a place where finance, glitzy watches and glitzier tech reigns, many young adults wander, wondering if there is something greater, something nobler, something more real.
And indeed, when these young adults—Catholic and not—gaze at the Blessed Sacrament, they are encountering the Real. Yet, their devotion turns to dust lest there are those who are willing and able to flame this devotion to apostleship.
This is what I see everytime I land in Hong Kong and gaze into these millions of people, these languages, colors, and cultures. I see many of our brothers and sisters who are searching for the Real. And I want to introduce them to my Friend.
Yet, when we got home—or at least, when I got home—some people responded to my trip as though I just bought cereal from Safeway.
In the US, and especially in San Francisco, there is a “I’m okay you’re okay” presupposition. Evangelization and Mission work is looked down upon because there is a perception that I’m imposing my values upon another person. I’ve got all of the answers, and poor little you, let me help you.
Yet all relationships with Jesus begin with “hello”. When I find myself in Wan Chai or Union Square, I’m just out to meet people. Tell me your story. What are your quirks? What do you like? Now, if people ask what I do, what is more honest—to say, “I’m a teacher” or “I’m a priest?” But who said that this happens everytime?
Being the salt of the earth means being okay to stick out—and being even more than okay to stick out when it means being an agent of mercy. Just as salt sticks out when we eat a meal, so must we stick out when we see an opportunity to do the more virtuous thing.
This is the point I wanted to make in the second article of the series, “Indifference”. That sometimes, we would rather take pictures of our food instead of empower missionaries to fulfill their vocation.
Christian brothers and sisters that we are yet to meet are starving to learn how to pray, and to be formed in our faith. They are parched for the water of Truth. No matter the language—Cantonese, English, Tagalog—Christians desire for the Gospel Truth.
I am thankful to God and the brothers; they allow me to be on mission once a year. Tricia goes on mission for months at a time, building up the Church in Asia and India. It’s beautiful work, which I am privileged to behold up close.
What Tricia does is the Extraordinary Thing. Dependent on the station, this is her week: during the day, she meets with clergy, sisters, and workers in God’s garden to plan events. She also counsels young adults, and trains the local leaders towards apostleship. The evenings are another matter. One night, she holds a Bible study. The next, she holds a catechism class. The next, she walks people through a contemplative prayer series, and on the next night, going through a different catechetical series.
As the ministry blossoms, the people of God want more and more. Yet one person can only do so much.
You would think that, when she comes off the plane at SFO, she comes back to hordes of people with banners and floats and a gift card to The House of Prime Rib for a job well done. However, it’s scandalizing, realizing her lack of support. Tricia herself is on Government health care and food stamps, and has been for years. Though she has stable housing now, for years, she couch surfed between San Francisco to San Jose.
Despite this, I see a woman after the heart of St. Francis Xavier and St. Catherine of Siena. A woman who left everything—possibility of a lucrative employment, stable housing, family, and community—because Jesus asked her to do the extraordinary.
Till I and another Dominican Sister heard her story, Tricia and her efforts would have been lost to history. It’s been such a privilege and blessing to behold the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and the Father’s providence, up close.
“The harvest is abundant but laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). God has called me to lend myself to this apostolate, so that the Spirit may allow it to flourish and testify to God’s Providence and Goodness. I invite you to join me and be part of our mission by your testimony, and any material and spiritual support you can muster. God bless you and keep you always.
You are invited to be part of the mission! St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society is a Catholic non-profit organization dedicated to evangelize to young adults in Asia. You can give financially via Paypal at www.laymissionary.org, giving a monthly or one-time gift of $50 or more we are an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our EIN is: 46-2993509.