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Regnum Christi Hong Kong: a Small Team with Great Dedication

Hong Kong is a unique mission territory for Regnum Christi. With a population of nearly 7.5 million people, the majority of Hong Kong inhabitants adhere to Chinese folk religions, like Confucianism and Taoism, or follow no religion at all. Only 10% of the population identify as Christians, and about half of those are Catholics. Despite its complicated ecclesial situation, Hong Kong presents itself as a bridge to China, whose influence, as one of the strongest global economies, on the future of the world and of the Church cannot be denied.

 

One of the priests assigned to this mission field is Fr. Joseph Tham, LC, who was born and raised in Hong Kong until the age of 15, when his family moved to Canada. After pursuing a science degree in mathematics, Fr. Joseph went on to graduate from medical school and became a general practitioner. After a visit to the Legionary seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, in 1994, he decided to end his practice and become a Legionary priest, and was ordained in 2004. His background in medicine led him to the study of bioethics at Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, and since 2010, he has been a visiting professor of bioethics at Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy in Hong Kong. Despite the cultural and religious contrasts that often present challenges in his ministry in Hong Kong, Fr. Joseph sees hope and promise. “There is a warm welcome here for our spirituality and the apostolic methodology of Regnum Christi,” says Fr. Joseph. “Providence acts in an unexpected way, opening new possibilities at this moment in our history.” Along with his work at retreats, conferences, and pilgrimages, Fr. Joseph has combined his expertise in bioethics with his love for both art and his faith in a book titled Art for God, a collection of his ink paintings, calligraphy, and seals that explore the connection between heaven and humanity. He has recently presented his pieces in art exhibitions in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, and has another exhibition coming up in Macau in September.

 

Regnum Christi has had a presence in Hong Kong since November of 2008, when the Legionary priests began visiting Hong Kong and mainland China. Throughout the years, they have given spiritual retreats on scripture and the sacraments, and have offered academic conferences on topics like bioethics and ethics within the field of business. In 2013, Fr. Joseph was joined by fellow Legionary priests, Fr. Gonzalo Miranda, Fr. Alex Yeung, and Fr. Michael Baggot, as well as consecrated member of Regnum Christ, Alberto Garcia, in an interreligious dialogue workshop organized by the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Right at Hong Kong Baptist University. Legionary priests have also served as chaplains on pilgrimages from Hong Kong to the Holy Land, Poland, Spain, Italy, and Greece, and have accompanied young people to World Youth Days.

 

The Legionary priests also work closely with the corporate world in Hong Kong. As of July 1997, Hong Kong is a special administrative region in southern China and has its own governing and economic system. Today, Hong Kong is one of Asia’s top economic and banking centers, and is ranked fourth among the world’s leading financial centers. Because of Hong Kong’s significant influence on the economy and international trade, there is a great need and desire for priestly accompaniment of entrepreneurs and professionals who seek theological, apostolic, and spiritual direction.

 

 

Recently, Regnum Christi Hong Kong hosted a Sacred Triduum Retreat in Hong Kong from Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday (April 6 – 8). The theme was “Centering My Life on the Paschal Mystery of Christ” and was led by Fr. Marco and Fr. Rafael Ducci, LC, who made his first visit to Hong Kong from Rome. Fr. Joseph, who initiated these annual triduum retreats twelve years ago, joined the retreat on Saturday.

 

Joan Foo Mahoney, an author and publisher living in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, attended the retreat with her husband, Terry, and writes about it her experience in her newsletter Smitten by Faith:

 

“At the retreat, Fr. Marco taught us to look at our Christian faith as an organic whole, and not segment various aspects of our faith in accordance with the liturgical calendar of the Church. Instead, independent of the calendar, we should bring the Paschal mystery – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – right smack into the center of our lives. This will enable us to live our everyday lives in the Christian way, sharing the good news with others.”

 

And in April of this year, Regnum Christi members and friends followed in the footsteps of the Korean martyrs in a pilgrimage to Seoul and surrounding areas in South Korea. They also had a workshop in Macau where RC members meditated on and deepened their rootedness in the Regnum Christi charism, and participated in a lively exchange surrounding some of the issues to be addressed in the upcoming general convention to be held in Rome of next year.

 

Fr. Marco Cho, LC, has been serving in Hong Kong for just a little over a year and a half, taking up full-time residence there in January of 2022. He now serves as spiritual director for the new Regnum Christi team in Hong Kong, and is responsible for the formation of RC members, friends, and other English-speaking Catholics in Hong Kong.

 

 

 

The Regnum Christi community in Hong Kong is relatively new, and small – most of the members, of which there are about a dozen from Hong Kong and Macau, associated with Regnum Christi in January 2020, in a Mass presided by Fr. Joseph, Fr. Marco, and Fr. Thomas Montanaro. And the small size of the RC family in Hong Kong certainly presents its challenges. Fr. Marco hopes to eventually have a larger Legionary community and increased Regnum Christi infrastructure, in the form of a meeting space or center, as the movement grows in Hong Kong. In fact, the RC team recently held their first family “Come and See” day, where interested friends were invited to experience and learn more about Regnum Christi, and as a fruit of that event, many people are going through discernment through a team-led process and personal accompaniment.

 

In his work with this small but committed RC team in Hong Kong, Fr. Marco has found authentic human connection and genuine friendship. “I love working with these proactive people, who are willing to collaborate in the work of building the Kingdom, and who have grown to love our charism,” shares Fr. Marco. “Their commitment to the movement and the way they give their time and energy is remarkable, considering the heavy demands a big city like Hong Kong places on their time and resources. They have a great thirst for formation and a real dedication to living our charism in this secular metropolis.”

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Art for God: Fr. Joseph Tham explores the harmony between heaven and humanity in his newest book

For Fr. Joseph Tham, LC, growing up in Hong Kong – where Christianity was, and still is, a minority religion trailing well behind Chinese folk spiritualities, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism – heightened his sense of belonging to the Catholic Church and his desire to respond to his baptismal call. It was this environment that allowed him to become more conscious of what it means to be a Catholic, more so than if he had been brought up in a predominantly Christian country. As a result, he was very much aware from a young age of the need to do something for Christ in his life.

When he was 15 years, old, Fr. Joseph immigrated with his family to Canada, and after high school, he began to pursue a science degree in mathematics, ultimately graduating from medical school and becoming a general practitioner. While still in medical school, Fr. Joseph felt a strong call to serve the suffering, in imitation of the God who had suffered for him. As a medical student, he began going on medical missions to Tanzania, Africa, and planned to become a medical missionary.

After graduation, Fr. Joseph worked as a general practitioner for four years, and was relatively satisfied with his medical career and the lifestyle that accompanied it, but he couldn’t help but wonder if God was asking something more. While treating the sick, it became apparent to Fr. Joseph that many of his patients were in need of not just physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. Fr. Joseph felt called to step away from his practice to follow God’s call, but the decision wasn’t easy. “I felt like the rich young man in the Gospel when I felt God’s call to sell all and follow him.”

In March of 1994, Fr. Joseph made a visit to the Legionary seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, and it was then and there, during celebrations of the Feast of St. Joseph, that he decided to end his practice, tie up any loose ends, and attend the summer candidacy program in June. As the only son in his Chinese family, Fr. Joseph was expected to care for his parents in their old age and to carry on the family name, so his decision to become a priest was met with great resistance, particularly from his father.

Despite his family’s opposition, and his own temptations to return to his medical practice, Fr. Joseph was ordained a Legionary priest in 2004. Because of his background in medicine, he began to study bioethics, and in 2007 he obtained his PhD at Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. Since then, he has taught bioethics in Rome as well as at the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy in Hong Kong. He also presents at conferences and courses, and is a prolific writer and editor of numerous articles and books on the topic of bioethics, and the important harmony that exists between the divine and the human.

""However, Fr. Joseph has taken an entirely new approach to presenting that harmony between heaven, earth, and humanity in his newest book, Art for God, Artworks and Spiritual Reflections. Besides being a former medical doctor, a Legionary priest, and a professor of bioethics, Fr. Joseph is also a sensitive artist of Chinese calligraphy, seals, and watercolor paintings. His new book explores the compatibility of the two cultures within which he was raised: Chinese tradition (including Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism) and Christianity and Catholicism.

One of the best examples of this compatibility is illustrated in a seal carving that Fr. Joseph created called “The Harmony Seal,” which depicts the incarnation of God. Chinese seals, typically carved out of stone and then dipped in red ink, have been used for over 2200 years to stamp important documents, contracts, and artwork, and have now become pieces of art in their own right. In Art for God, Fr. Joseph explains the significance of “The Harmony Seal”:

"" The Harmony Seal by Fr. Joseph Tham, LC

“The symbolism of this seal carving is taken from a traditional round shape design. The ancient Chinese words for ‘Heaven’ and ‘Man’ have the same root that looks like a stick figure of a human being. This design emphasizes that from Heaven, God becomes man in his incarnation. The kneeling posture of man represents God’s kenosis, the self-emptying of Jesus. When you look carefully, the three round dots symbolize the mystery in the Trinity. The partition of the seal is in the shape of a cross, reminding us that we are reconciled to God through the Paschal mystery. The circle is a symbol of unity and harmony. The circular seal is the size of the communion bread, the Eucharistic host that is the spiritual food that sustains us in our journey towards this ideal of universal harmony.”

“The Harmony Seal” was created by Fr. Joseph in the early months of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and following months of social unrest in Hong Kong; for Fr. Tham, the division caused by these events demonstrated a need for reconciliation with nature and with God, and a return to harmony. He recently presented this and other pieces from his book in an exhibition at the Fringe Club, a contemporary art space in Hong Kong, in January of 2022.

""For Fr. Joseph, the art that he creates is always a representation of his relationship with God, and his book, Art for God, is a reflection of his artistic journey of painting, calligraphy, and seal-carving, and how his art informs and is informed by his faith. The book, therefore, is not simply a collection of art pieces, of which there are plenty, but also a spiritual diary; each creation is accompanied by a reflection on the inspiration or message behind the piece. And the thread that runs throughout all the art pieces and their accompanying reflections is one that runs throughout Fr. Joseph’s entire life: a story of how the influence of Chinese literature, poetry, philosophy, and spirituality resonates and dialogues harmoniously with his Christian faith.

Fr. Joseph believes that one the greatest ethical problems in today’s culture is the desire to own, consume, and to dominate, rather than to seek harmony with all things. “It is my prayer and my hope,” says Fr. Joseph, “that this book will elevate the spirit and touch that which is transcendent, that which is beyond, that which is our heavenly home, and that which is God.”

You can find out more about Fr. Joseph’s exhibit and his book Art for God, Artworks and Spiritual Reflections here, and purchase his book, which is written in both English and Chinese, at creationhub.ltd.

 

 

 

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!