Celebrating the arrival of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 90 years ago

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On December 3, the Hong Kong Matteo Ricci community of the Chinese Jesuit Province marked the 90th anniversary of the arrival of the Jesuits in Hong Kong.

Irish Jesuits Fr George Byrne and Fr John Neary arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin on December 2, 1926 upon the invitation of Bishop Henry Valorta, Vicar Apostolic of Hong Kong. They celebrated their first Mass on the island the day after, on the Feast of St Francis Xavier. The following year, they were joined by three more Irish Jesuits – Fathers Richard Gallagher, Patrick Joy and Daniel MacDonald – and Australian Jesuit Fr Daniel Finn.

The first Jesuit missionaries in Hong Kong, 1927

The commemoration of the 90th anniversary was also an occasion to celebrate the jubilees of several Jesuit priests in Hong Kong. Fr Robert Ng, Fr Thomas Leung and Fr Beda Liu celebrated 50 years in the Society of Jesus, Fr Seán Ó Cearbhalláin celebrated 60 years in the Society, and Fr Joseph Mallin celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Fr Robert Ng, Fr Thomas Leung, Fr Beda Liu and Fr Seán Ó Cearbhalláin (seated) Fr Joseph Mallin SJ (in black) seated beside Fr Seán Ó Cearbhalláin SJ

His Eminence John Cardinal Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong, presided at the Holy Mass in the St Ignatius Chapel of Wah Yan College in Kowloon. Well over 800 people attended and the atmosphere was solemn and warm. A deep sense of the divine blessings to the Jesuit mission in Hong Kong, and of gratitude for the friendship between the Jesuits, their collaborators and lay people prevailed.

After the Mass, the Jesuits greeted their guests in a tea reception held in the school hall where a video and a pictorial memoir of the history of the Jesuits in Hong Kong were presented. The book in particular is a precious record of the Jesuit history in Hong Kong. The celebration ended with a private dinner among the Jesuits with some invited guests in a nearby restaurant.

Watch this video of the history of the Jesuits in Hong Kong from 1926 to 2016.