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Memorial Mass for Frs. Peter Reilly and John Geitner, Principals Tong and Ho 2019-05-20

Memorial Mass for Frs. Peter Reilly and John Geitner, Principals Tong and Ho by
M Sloboda in MFS secondary on Sat, May 18, 2019


Dear Supervisor, principals, teachers, alumni and students: About 45 years ago, toward the end of the Cultural Revolution (文化大革命), a US journalist flew to Beijing. The tour guide showed him an ancient building. The reporter was impressed and asked, “Who built it?” The tour guide was not happy with that question. He replied, “The people built it! Who else?” He did not want to name an emperor or a prime minister from the bad old days of feudalism (封建時代). Yet one or two special people had to be the brains and the driving force behind the construction project.

Who built this school? Large numbers of US Catholics donated small sums to Maryknoll. We also had a few big donors. On this side of the Pacific, the British colonial government approved and gave us the land, plus some financial support. The government subsidy later increased. The Education Bureau built the primary campus and pays most of our bills. Who pays the EDB? Ordinary people through the taxes and fees which they pay. The sale of land is a big source of government revenue here, so part of your high rent goes to the schools in the HKSAR. The alumni supply decorations, religious items and also some equipment which is not on the government’s list. Maryknoll headquarters still gives something. Many parents have volunteered their time from the first year of our history. Maybe there would not be enough space on the wall for large portraits all the departed teachers over the past 62 years. Even though the booklet only names 2 priests and 2 principals, we are in debt to all the people who have made MFS the school it is today.

Remembering those who have gone before us and praying for the dead – who can have a problem with a memorial Mass? Almost 100 years ago in Shanghai, a Mass similar to this greatly bothered a young Chinese Catholic. The Mass was in Latin, no problem. They prayed for Mateo Ricci [1552-1610], 利瑪竇神父, a pioneering missionary. What was the problem? Fr. Ricci had died over 300 years earlier, and the prayers still mentioned the repose of his soul. One young Catholic was worried and discouraged. He thought, “If a dedicated and holy priest is still in purgatory after 300 years, how long will I have to spend there?” No, no, no! He drew the wrong conclusion. There are 2 kinds of Masses which name a deceased person. One Mass is for a saint, a person whom Rome has investigated and officially declared to be in heaven, no doubt about it. It’s not for you or for me to say “Saint Peter Reilly” or “Saint John Geitner.” Not yet! So the only other Mass we can use is for a deceased person. Those prayers ask the Lord to admit him or her to heaven. We can hope and we can even reasonably suspect that those we remember today and many others, both Christians and non-Christians, are in a place of light, happiness and peace. God knows who his friends are. We want to become better friends of God.

Here’s a third story from China: not quite 45 years ago, a US businessman flew to Beijing to explore opportunities for import and export trade. He had supper in a hotel. Then he walked to the lobby and looked out the front door. The street was quiet and surprisingly dark. Most of the buildings were closed at an early hour. He turned around, took a few steps to the front desk and asked the receptionist “Is there anything to do in this city at night?” She was silent for a few seconds before she answered, “Sir, you can go up to your room and get a good night’s sleep.” Beijing has changed.

In addition, Hong Kong has changed. In 1957, the year our school opened, television came to HK. Only a few families had a TV set in the early years. Today, students ignore the TV set and watch a mobile phone or a slightly larger screen instead. They do not need to walk outdoors at night. The temptation is to stare at a small glowing screen most of the night, and to sleep during class the next day. Both teens and adults need to say NO to temptation.

When our school opened, HK was British, and Britain has also changed. Here’s an ad from UK for a Catholic prep school north of London. This upscale kindergarten and primary school finds a correct “balance between giving children the freedom to be themselves, while maintaining a focus on traditional values.” The ad does not mention Roman Catholic, but the website does. It also mentions the value of prayer and a personal relationship with God, plus the name of the chaplain. Compared to the previous generation, fewer British parents attend church on Sunday, yet they know how much their children need values and a sense of history to guide them in life. There is more stress of freedom today. Both a firm identity and a good amount of freedom are important. Someone called this “roots and wings.”

In MFS, the roots are truth and loyalty. What are the wings? Sports, music, Other Learning Experiences, prayer during the morning assembly plus an occasional Mass on campus. Did I forget something? We want to let students soar upward for a while. Parents, you might ask your children when they feel lifted up above the day to day routine of studies.

Now a few words on the Gospel. Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, died of an illness. How old was he? We don’t know, maybe 30, maybe 35. Doctors could not do much in ancient times. Students who have lost a grandmother or a grandfather know it hurts to say goodbye to a senior citizen. It’s worse when someone much younger leaves. All the people mentioned in John chapter 11 were Jewish, and they shared the hope of the resurrection of the dead on the last day. God alone knows when that will finally happen. Jesus made the strong claim that he is the resurrection and the life. We also believe that. Faith in Jesus, plus love for the younger generation, moved Frs. Reilly and Geitner, Principals Tong (唐) and Ho (何), plus many others.

It’s important to educate students for life in the modern world, and to give them the tools to succeed in this competitive city. It’s more important for the students to be committed to truth and loyalty. Yet most important of all is to give students hope, hope in a better future than what this world can offer. They will need that hope, just as adults need it, when disaster comes much sooner than we expect. Therefore we pray in hope, and we educate in hope.

Last but not least, one more person deserves credit, a Divine Person: the Holy Spirit.


What is the name of that school in UK? Sorry, it’s not my job to advertize another school or a commercial product when I preach.

Wings? How can angels fly? Because they take themselves so lightly. – G. K. Chesterton. We people on earth should not take ourselves so seriously.

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