Vox Parva: Who cares about the mission?


Benedict Keith Ip

From the very beginning, I wish to make my stance known about the word “mission.” In the simplest sense, we may use a reference from the Oxford Dictionary: “Mission” refers to, “The vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith.” Every congregation, both silently and actively, contributes to this goal in two major ways: in a contemplative manner, such as prayer; and in an apostolic manner, such as providing education, various social works, etc. The meaning of spreading the faith is not limited merely to conversion, but also includes inviting people to feel the love of Christ.
On Facebook last week, we might have seen some pictures of part of the demolished historical building that is affixed to the Canossian seminary, which is located in the Church of St. Francis Xavier of Mongha, also known as St. Francis’ Church. People started accusing the government, as well as the church, of destroying heritage to serve the rich and the higher officials. However, how well do you know the Canossians? How much do you understand about the work that they have been practicing here in Macau? And what has really happened to reach this reconstruction, before it drew such criticism? And who do you criticize – the rich, the government, or the church, the nuns and the Christian faith?
The Canossians first founded their mother seminary in 1808 in Verona, Italy, a rather new religious society when compared with the Jesuits, who are more famous in Macau and China. Ex-bishop of Macau Domingos Lam confirms that the Canossians arrived in Macau in 1874. The sisters began offering education to children in the Sé parish, and then went on to places around St. Anthony’s Church. In 1906, the Macau diocese entrusted the affixed complex in Mongha to the Canossians. They then reconstructed and provided elderly and nursery services for decades. The nursery service, however, closed in 1976 due to low usage at the time. The current four-storey building that we can see nowadays was rebuilt in 1973.
One may not be interested in the above information because it simply does not have any relevance to this competitive 21st century. Should an organization be proud of serving the elderly or orphans? Who cares, and who on earth will appreciate such things? Nevertheless, Macau residents have heard of this society because it has a very nice college and culture of education. Parents are eager to send their kids to the sisters every year, whether their kids appreciate Catholicism or not. The Canossians’ mission is harmonious enough to accept them, even if they will never appreciate the faith.
The rebuilding of part of the seminary in order to continue the education mission should be seen as a gesture of goodwill offered to Macau society. The reconstruction plan was initiated in 2008 in order to better utilize the scarred land, as well as to provide services in need. Of course, there are problems with this plan that we should consider: government administration and approvals are too long and belated. Don’t tell me it is fair to have evaluated this plan for seven years; there has been scant transparency regarding the decision-
making, the evaluation of historical value, etc.; it also fails to make use of the newly enforced heritage law and has spawned rumors of a conflict of interest, even though the proposal was tabled long before the law was imposed.
To keep or to develop; it is always a serious and difficult question. Heritage nowadays is a very valuable monument for both the memory of citizens as well as for tourism. Please keep in mind that the building belongs to Macau society, but memories belong to all of us. A faithful mission will always balance development with the emotion of society as a whole, which is natural and humane.

Categories Opinion