Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception: for 50 years 'humble instruments' at the service of Hong Kong

Education, catechumenate, health care, charity among the homeless and in prisons: these are the missionary fronts of the female branch of PIME. The Superior-delegate: "We cast seeds, regardless of conversions". A Mass to commemorate the arrival of Sister Theresa Pathickal and Sister Maddalena Pirodda, on September 11, 1968.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Young people, consumerism, and a materialistic life of excess: the Missionaries of the Immaculate (MdI) respond to the challenges that await the mission of the Church in Hong Kong with "being humble instruments, a Christian presence that brings people closer and supports those who suffer ". This is what Sister Luigia Mindassi told AsiaNews (photo 1), superior-delegate of the religious, who has been working in the territory for almost 40 years. "It is not always possible to speak of Jesus, but even the way we greet people or the attention we give them can be a testimony of faith" she says.

On 2 December, the women's branch of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first missionaries in the former British colony. The function, celebrated by the bishop Msgr. Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in the church of the Sts. Cosmas and Damien in Tsuen Wan, saw the participation of about 700 people. Among these was Sister Theresa Pathickal (from India), the first nun to arrive in Hong Kong on 11 September 1968 together with Sister Maddalena Pirodda (photo 2-3).

With the establishment of the Paul VI College, a secondary school for girls in the district of Shek Lei, in 1969 they began their commitment in the field of education. The College is a public school, which follows the programs approved by the government. "However, we are free to give a Catholic approach to the education we provide," says Sr. Luigia. The institute, which soon became a point of reference for education in the territory, currently hosts 800 girls, 40 of them Catholic.

Another missionary field they have dedicated themselves to since the early years is health care, including care for the disabled. The religious sisters mainly operate through diocesan organizations and parishes in Hong Kong. "We try to open communities to the outside world, especially to non-Christians and the poor", explains the superior. The missionaries participate actively in the pastoral ministry of the parishes and accompany the people in the catechumenate. "We also want to bring boys and girls closer to the needs of society," says Sr. Luigia.

For this reason, sisters regularly visit detainees in Hong Kong prisons. "Some of us take part in religious groups - she continues - others, like me, operate in non-religious groups. I care for women who face pregnancy in prison.  We prepare them for childbirth and teach them how to take care of the child. We try to make them more serene mothers ". Other religious instead visit non-Chinese prisoners, with whom they read the Gospel and share moments of prayer.

Another activity that the religious women are involved in is charity among the homeless in the city, very often victims of drug addiction. Sister Luigia explains that proselytism is not the main objective of the religious. "We cast seeds: every man has the right to receive the Good News. Perhaps we will never know of conversions, but for us Christian presence and witness is important. What remains is a trace, a very strong link with the people we meet ".

 "A few years ago, during the Easter Mass, I met a gentleman who, driven by his wife, started the catechumenate when I was still in charge of it myself. I congratulated him and he wanted to share a memory with me. 'Do you remember - he asked me - when you said to us: Do not wait for your hair to become white like mine to decide? Well, I listened to you. We do not know when, but sincere words touch people's hearts and can bring forth beautiful things.

At present, there are 12 Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong, four for each of the three small communities in the delegation. Half of the sisters are aged around 40, while the rest is over sixty. They are Italian, Brazilian, Indian and Chinese. As required by the statute, which calls them to go ad-extra, two nuns from Hong Kong are on a mission abroad, in Brazil and Bangladesh.

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