Father Timothy Yan Ho-fung, who was just ordained at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception on January 4, said that over the past two to three years, he has worked in the pastoral care units of eight different public hospitals as he could see the peace and the comfort of God in many patients passed through. The diocesan priest shared that two incidents happened in Wai Yee Block, Caritas Medical Centre, when he was a newborn and when he was about to graduate, have given him the determination to do so.
Having finished theological training in 2016 and prior to graduation, he was assigned to a three-month hospital pastoral care programme of the Diocesan Commission for Hospital Pastoral Care held at Wai Yee Block of Caritas Medical Centre, Cheung Sha Wan. By seeming coincidence, he was treated at the same block for a serious illness when he was just two months old.
The children’s ward of the block where he once stayed has a special significance for him as he nearly died there due to a serious digestive illness. He recalled that while the doctor was about to give up hope, his mother, who was not yet a Catholic, asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to save his life when she passed by a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes inside the hospital. The doctor-in-charge later decided to adopt a new treatment in an experimental way and he gradually recovered (Sunday Examiner, 28 October 2018).
He was baptised soon after he was discharged and his mother later joined an adult catechism class.
He believes God brought him to Wai Yee Block again to help him recall his trial as a newborn so that he could better empathise with others.
In an interview with the Sunday Examiner, Father Yan narrated an unforgettable incident during his pastoral training. One day after attending a class at the hospital, the then-seminarian was suddenly told to stay behind to assist in an emergency baptism. However, the priest was unable to get to the hospital and instead authorised him over the phone to administer the sacrament. Having no prior experience baptising a dying patient, he followed the procedures in the liturgical booklet, but was unsure of what direction should he pour the water!
However, he realised that the baptism brought joy and peace to the patient. When he first saw her, she had difficulty in even opening her eyes or her mouth to speak. Yet after baptism, the patient could sit up and lift her hand to wave him goodbye with happiness in her eyes. “I thought the sudden strength of the patient came from the grace of God. And I had acted as a medium to pass on his grace,” he recounted.
That incident, happening at the same building where his life was saved when he was an infant, strengthened his determination to respond to his vocation. “God was again telling me to serve others with the grace from him,” he said.
While engaged in parish pastoral work at St. Francis Church, Ma On Shan, he still makes time to visit different hospitals in Shatin and Tai Po.
Father Yan took a verse from 2 Corinthians 1:4 as his motto: “God supports us in every hardship, so that we are able to come to the support of others, in every hardship of theirs because of the encouragement that we ourselves receive from God.” He believes that he needs to bring the comfort and peace from God to others, which are not him but from God. “It is only that I help to show the grace of God,” he said.