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Marist Bulletin - Number 54


Marists throughout Asia choosing life

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Our General Council held plenary sessions in Hong Kong, China from February 23-26. During that time it met with all the Councils of our Marist Provinces, Districts, and Sectors in Asia. The more than 30 Brothers who participated in these meetings enjoyed a wonderful stay at the Honeyville Centre run by the Canossian Sisters. From its balcony overlooking the harbor there was a breathtaking view of the endless passing of ferries and freighters that crisscross the sea-lanes serenely.

Our next Marist Bulletin will provide in-depth coverage of the issues and happenings that took place at this Marist gathering.

Hong Kong, with its 6.7 million inhabitants living within an area of 1100 square kilometers, has been at the crossroads of 5000 years of Chinese tradition and 150 years of British colonial rule. On July 1, 1997 Great Britain returned the city and its surroundings to Chinese sovereignty, and since that time the new government has based its administration on the principle: One country, two systems. Leaflets touting Hong Kong’s merits call it the City of Life, a center for international business.

The Marist Brothers arrived in Beijing in 1891. They went on to establish a flourishing Province, before having to leave from their schools in 1949. At that time, our Brothers – like members of many other religious congregations dedicated to Christian education – moved to Hong Kong and countries in South-Eats Asia to continue their apostolate and set up schools. The Archbishop’s warm welcome and strong support led to the building of numerous Catholic schools throughout the city. Today the Marist Brothers have two schools in Hong Kong, although their names are so similar you would think there was only one: Saint Francis Xavier College in Kowloon, and Saint Francis Xavier School in Tsuen Wan.

Saint Francis Xavier School has an enrolment of 940 boys, with 49 teachers on the faculty, including two Brothers. Brother Anthony Cheng, Principal of our other school, Saint Francis Xavier College, tells us that school has an enrolment of 1200 boys, from 12 to 19 years of age, and a faculty of 60 teachers, including six Brothers. Upon completing a five-year academic program (12-17), students take college preparatory courses (17-19), which open doors at the university level.

People here are very inclined to get the most out of their educational resources. To give but one example, a boy who studied at Saint Francis Xavier College would one day return from the USA to tap into his Marist roots as a teenager – the internationally famous Bruce Lee. Fewer than 10% of the College’s students are Catholic. Some belong to other faiths, but most are nonbelievers.

The work of spreading the Gospel in this part of the world rests on the shoulders of a very small segment of the population. In all of Asia, barely 3% of the population is Catholic, and that only because Catholicism has such firm roots in the Philippines, and now in Korea. The Gospel witness that Asian Catholics give holds great weight, and is fraught with challenges. That makes the Marist Brothers’ contribution in Asia even more noteworthy. Saint Marcellin’s charism is being seen through the prism of Asia’s rich cultural diversity.

On Sunday February 23rd, the community of Saint Francis Xavier College, together with the Brothers from Saint Francis Xavier School and the Provincial Council of China welcomed everyone attending the General Council’s meetings, and all enjoyed a splendid meal typical of the region.

Here in this city teeming with life, famous for its bold modern architecture, the General Council and our Asian leaders have closely examined the current situation and the future of our Marist life in this part of the world. Echoes from our 20th General Chapter continue to reverberate throughout the region, and it’s clear that our Asian Brothers, aware of both their gifts and limitations, are more committed than ever to choosing life, wholeheartedly addressing the challenges that their societies – so varied and complex, culturally and religiously – are now setting before them.

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