AS HONG KONG faces a third wave of Covid-19 coronavirus infetions, the diocese announced pastoral measures on the July 14, including suspending public Masses until July 28, with further measures to be announced before the day. Once again, we are asked to attend Masses streamed online and to nourish our faith through prayer and reading the Bible. Many baptisms have had to be postponed again, leaving the Elect unsettled. However, the pandemic not only challenges our faith, but also drives us to guide the lost, the lonely and the helpless.
Pope Francis encouraged people to see the crisis as an opportunity to care for the poor. He pointed out that every issue brings both risk and opportunity and the we should maximise the chance to reflect on their our previous way of life while turning our attention to the poor. He also said that poverty is hidden inside the community and is bashful, and thus all of us must take a more active approach in offering help.
The pope invited people to “go out of the parish”; go out of the group and into the community. This invitation is becoming more urgent.
During the previous wave of the pandemic, Masses were suspended, but acts of service had not been halted. Some parishes, in collaboration with organisations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Caritas, cared for the disadvantaged by giving out masks and offering support to jobless families. The students of some Catholic schools took the initiative to donate anti-pandemic kits to some communities. Some parishes cancelled the meal gatherings in celebration of the feast days of their patron saints’ in favour of social concern activities, and reached out to the needy via parish-affiliated schools and Caritas.
The former Master of the Guild of St. Luke, St. Cosmas and St. Damian Hong Kong, Albert Lee, pointed out that the Church can coordinate community resources. For example, when the elderly are unable to go out to buy masks, the Church can coordinate its resources to support them.
The Church needs to seize the opportunity to build networks with the stakeholders in the community. Among others considerations: improving the cooperation between parishes, schools and Caritas to better respond to the needs of the poor. Many Catholic young people have actively responded to the new needs of the community and parishes can learn from their experience to revitalise related work.
Caritas pays special attention to those ignored by society. When ethnic minorities found it hard to understand anti-epidemic information due to language barriers, Caritas took the initiative to visit them and share information and anti-epidemic products. These communities’ needs may be increasing.
Some Oblate priests and their co-workers also increased their efforts to relocate the McRefugees, those homeless who would normally take refuge in 24-hour fastfood establishments whose opening hours are now severely curtailed.
Livelihood has been impacted and the economy and employment had changed. The situation of the low-income people has been further aggravated. If things do not improve, any charitable work will be inadequate.
Therefore, the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs will urge the authorities to expand who can receive anti-epidemic funding as well as to include Covid-19 into job protection to help low-income families.
May God grant us wisdom to identify social needs and pool our strengths to help the disadvantaged and the weakest. SE