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Home Far East March - April 2016

March - April 2016

We Don’t Leave a Mission Lightly

By Sr Patricia Byrne

In the end there were just three Columban Sisters left in Hong Kong, three to say goodbye to a much loved mission, three to share the blessings in that final farewell on behalf of all who had ever been there on mission. Sisters Mary Anthony Ryan, Isobel Loughrey and myself, Patricia Byrne, shared the reflections and the graces of those final days.

“Why are you leaving?” We faced the question over and again from our friends, former patients, colleagues, co-workers. Not an easy question to answer. We have been praying and discerning over the years and have come to understand that a difficult decision was called for as there were no younger sisters to replace those who had left the mission. So we began to see that the time would come when we would have leave, a difficult thing to do, as Hong Kong has been a special mission in the life of the Congregation since the first Sisters arrived in 1948 and began work at Ruttonjee Sanatorium in the following year.
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Reflections: The Joy of Being Forgiven

No one likes to have their faults pointed out to them. Who wants to be told they are unkind, or arrogant or a gossip? Even a close friend is on treacherous ground if he mentions your pettiness or self-centredness. Our self image as a ‘good’ person must be preserved at all costs. But, when we take time to look honestly at ourselves, we know that there is work to be done; we are not sinless creatures.

Lent is a blessed time for a spring cleaning of our soul, a time to look into the dark, hidden corners of our heart, a time for conversion. But, unlike many self-help programmes so popular today, we do not go it alone. “Think of the love the Father has lavished on us” (1Jn 1:3). How much easier it is to look at those hidden recesses, those unacknowledged faults, those sins, when we believe that we are held in the arms of a loving Father. This is far removed from an image of a God who snoops around, watching our every move, pouncing on us when we fall.

The story of Zacchaeus (Lk Ch 19) shows what can happen when we meet Jesus. This tax collector, a well known sinner, climbed up a tree hoping to see Jesus as he passed by. The Lord looked up and, far from rebuking him, he said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; I must stay in your house today.” The effect on the small man was instantaneous: he knew he was forgiven and his joy had no bounds. Peter too, experienced the overwhelming mercy of Christ when after a long night of fruitless fishing, they caught a great shoal at his word. Overcome at this astonishing event, Peter confessed, “I am a sinful man”. And Jesus, who knew this, did not accuse him, but said, “Do not be afraid.” (Lk Ch 5).

And this is what he says to us. Don’t be afraid. Trust Me. Our God, the Father of Jesus, is “full of tenderness and compassion.” It is important to spend time getting to know this God. It is important to know in the marrow of your bones that you are fully accepted, that you are loved. It is important to know that you are the apple of God’s eye, that you are ‘carved in the palm of his hand’ (Is 49:16 ). No sin of ours, however grave, is beyond the mercy and the forgiveness of God when we repent. The sacrament of reconciliation is a celebration of God’s joy, the joy of a Father embracing his once lost son (Lk Ch 15).

The Lord, the prophet says, ‘is waiting to be gracious to you’ (Is 30:18). Let us not keep him waiting. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us give time, even five minutes each day, to look at Jesus, to search for him in the gospels and to thank him for his great mercy, his forgiveness, his love. 

S.R.T.

Sharing Our Story

By Fr Paul McMahon

One of my present jobs is to offer counselling in a centre for survivors of trauma after the conflict in Northern Ireland. From 1969 until 2001, an estimated 3,523 people were killed in the conflict, 40,000 were injured, not to mention the thousands of husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, relatives, neighbours and teachers psychologically affected by those traumatic events. ‘Trauma’ comes from the Greek word to be ‘wounded’ or ‘pierced’ and can be used to describe any experience that overwhelms us. It is like a bolt of lightning that pierces our stability and our ability to cope. Thankfully most of us, over time, adapt, adjust and learn to live with the experience but depending on the traumatic incident it can take a long time and sometimes needs specialised help.

I know from my experience as a missionary in Pakistan that the support of a group can be healing and empowering for those who have suffered a trauma. That’s why I was happy when I was asked to facilitate a group of women on the topic of ‘Reminiscence and Overcoming Trauma’ at The Survivors of Trauma Centre in North Belfast.
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On Mission in Japan

By Fr Malachy Hanratty

Fifty nine years ago three of us left Dalgan to join the young Columban mission in Japan. Japan as you know has long been a ‘First World’ country, very advanced in commerce, manufacturing, education, medicine, politics, very organised and regulated; - and all of this built on a deep-down, distinct culture. But we were entering a country whose people were strenuously united in coping with the ravages of war and rebuilding. It was and is 98% non-Christian.

In Ireland there is a fuss made of a young ordained priest and in our foolishness we thought we were important. Then we arrived in Japan and we found we were ‘nobody’. We were in a different world, lost, illiterate, irrelevant, politely ignored outsiders.
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We Need Our Myeong Seks

By Fr Noel O’Neill

Myeong Sek, Theresa, was special. She was special because she was differently-abled.

She was special, because it was she who accompanied me as together we first began to walk the Road to Emmaus. After 25 years in the parish ministry I sought permission from my superiors to begin a new apostolate, a ministry to those people with special needs. Myeong Sek had been abandoned by her parents when she was a few years old and ended up in the Beggars Camp, a large institution which I frequently visited while in the parish ministry. After much negotiation with the authorities at the institution, I succeeded in getting permission for Myeong Sek to leave the institution and to join with me and a volunteer as we moved into a two story house in a residential part of the city. It was October 1981. This was the first attempt in Korea to offer people with special needs the opportunity of living in the local community.
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