PIME missionary: May Christmas help us build a civilisation of love
by Mario Marazzi

Fr Mario Marazzi, 90, has lived his mission in Hong Kong and mainland China. He remembers his work with mentally disabled children in the mainland and expresses hope that the agreement between China and the Holy See will bring positive results. “I thank God for the gift of life” and all those who supported his mission.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – "Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong," (Psalm 90:10). Compared to us, when the psalmist wrote these words, the average life span was much lower. Now, for many reasons, things are not like that anymore and I have been able to reach the age of ninety.

I thank God for the gift of life and I thank my parents who brought me into the world. I soon lost my father, and I am grateful to my mother, brothers and sisters who made my childhood a happy one.

Long is the list of people to remember with gratitude. I remember those who gave me a good job in their business when I was a teenager. I remember the young people of Azione Cattolica (Catholic Action) with whom I spent beautiful years, the teachers (lay people and priests) who helped me grow up, the classmates with whom I shared the journey of learning to become a priest and a missionary. . .

At the age of thirty-two (October 1960) I arrived in Hong Kong by ship. Once in the harbour, I and my travelling companions stood on the bridge enjoying the scene of a unique city, which will be my adopted home for so many years.

The first two years were devoted to the study of languages, Chinese and English. Learning English was not that hard, but learning Chinese was quite a challenge. I was helped by the patience of people.

I remember the kids who came to our house and corrected us unconsciously, without fear of giving offence. I remember a teacher, now retired, who helped me for years and even today still helps me out.

Long is the list of Hong Kong people who accompanied me over the years. I have been blessed by examples of goodness and generosity on several occasions. I thank the bishops, the priests, the nuns and many people who accepted me with my faults and limitations, helping me overcome difficulties.

I would like to mention the time I spent in Guangzhou, as a volunteer serving the mentally disabled helped by Huiling (a non-profit organisation for youth left behind by society).

I went to China wishing to do something for the disabled, but what I received was much more than what I gave. I learnt that living in a family home together with disabled people links in communion the life of those deemed "normal" and those seen as "abnormal".

I came to Hong Kong s a missionary to make the Gospel of Jesus known to non-Christians. I discovered soon enough that the Church was already in a missionary mode, that many lay people led by their priests were busy proclaiming the Good News to others. All I did was join them and offer my small contribution to a great and fascinating story.

I left my homeland with a desire to go and proclaim through words and bear witness with my life a gift that I too received, i.e. faith in Jesus the Saviour. I realise that I too received a lot here.

I learnt to respect a very ancient culture, and see the positive in people who live differently from how I was educated. Through dialogue with Christians of other religious traditions, I came to appreciate the riches of other Churches. In other words, I learnt that the life of a missionary is an exchange of gifts.

I am grateful to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), which has accompanied me in my life as a missionary, and now that I am an old man offers me a comfortable place. I live in fact at the PIME House with some confreres. Most of our missionaries live outside, in parishes doing other jobs. But at the PIME House we meet for convivial meetings, study or prayer.

Ad for me, I go out to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist in some parishes or fulfil other commitments but I mostly spend my time in the house where I take care of the library and execute other small community services.

Compared to before I now have more leisure time. In addition to the Bible I have time to read other books or magazines and correspond with friends. I feel closer to you now that I can pray more.

In prayer I ask you to remember the Church of China. The recent agreement between the Holy See and the Beijing government is something positive and a first step. Unfortunately, Chinese authorities severely restrict the freedom of religious worship.

Let us hope the situation improves. Chinese Catholics have long suffered and deserve respect. We offer them support, encouragement and respect for the hardships they face in living the faith.

My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the Lord help us offer our small contribution to building a civilisation of love!