Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Hong Kong experience

A visitor from Mars may ask how can 7 million people live is an area which is half the size of County Limerick in Ireland- just 400 hundred  square miles. Hong Kong has a very high density of population - 6,300 people per square kilometre and walking around Nathan Rd or any street one can feel dwarfed by the height of the buildings which can be  50-60 floors.  Hong Kong builds up and not out because it has no space.  It has an aging population, in 2033 they forecast that 37% of the population.will be 65 years and over.  It has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

While 95% of the population is Chinese it has  had an amazing  miixture of races living there. In St. Michael's cemetery in Happy Valley, which is opposite  the Jockey Club one views the headstones and wall plaques of people from many nations who are buried.  Over 30 Irish Jesuits are laid to rest  there as well as numerous other Irish missionaries.

 The first Irish Jesuits  arrived on December 3rd, 1926.  107 Irish Jesuits worked for some time in Hong Kong.  Some others  went to Malaysia, Signapore, Japan and Cambodia- an amazing contribtion to the Far East mission  from a small island on the western shores of the Atlantic.

The Jesuits in Hong Kong are often known as the Wah Yan Jesuits because of the enormous educational impact of two secondary/high schools, Wah Yan Hong Kong and Wah Yan Kowloon.  The graduates of these two schools are dispersed all over the world and their allegiance to the past pupils union and affection for their Jesuit teachers lives on.  The 9 Irish Jesuits who remain in Hong Kong continue to work in diverse works in spite of their advancing years.  They work in the spiritual ministry, education, publications, chaplaincy and assisting the local Church in diverse ways.  Their impact is enormous and the challenge remains  how Ireland and the the Irish Province can remain connected with the Far East when these men have passed away.

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