I’m sr. Maria Clara Pires, from Parintins in North Brazil. I reached Hong Kong in 2016, bringing along the desire to insert myself in this mission. I was aware about the challenges, but I believe God is always at my side and he gives me strength and graces to overcome them.
At the beginning, I had to learn the local language, which is quite difficult and requires a lot of time, patience and dedication, day after day with a lot of effort I got it. Many times, I felt unable to learn Cantonese, but I experienced the support and encouragement of my community and of the Hong Kong people around me. So, I carried on with joy, knowing that the language is an important aspect to understand the local culture and the people.
Besides learning the language, there were other things that I had to get used to, for example Chinese food. I found a variety of dishes, and their special way of eating with the chopsticks. For Chinese meal time is not only a moment for eating, but also a time for interaction, for sharing their life, while they share the food. Especially in a meal called yámchàh (飲茶), there we eat and drink tea while we talk. At the beginning for me it has been a little bit difficult, because of the language, but at the same time it has been a unique opportunity to learn and practice Cantonese. Hong Kong people with their kindness and friendship taught me not only the names of the dishes, but also they introduced me to their culture. It became part of my mission, a moment of staying together, talking, eating and sharing the life.
The Chinese culture is rich in traditions and festivals, which have been celebrated for centuries, for example: Chinese new year, middle autumn festival, and many others. They celebrate these festivals with great devotion, it is also a moment in which the families come together. I admire their way they maintain these traditions alive and how they pass them from one generation to the next. Also we, sisters, celebrate some of them, and this fact make me very happy, because it shows how we are inserted in this reality.
Another thing that surprised me, is that the Hong Kong people are very religious. It is common to see them visiting the Buddhist or Taoist temples burning incense and praying to their gods. The Catholics live with commitment the faith, and they have a great desire to follow the Jesus’ teachings. I cannot forget also to mention that Hong Kong people are very generous, as soon as they hear that somebody is in need, they immediately find a way of supporting through prayers and material goods. This really touches me.
In Hong Kong the values of respect and harmony are very strong. They are lived in the families, in the society and among the religions.
When I look back at these first four years that I lived in Hong Kong, I see that in a short period of time I have learnt and experienced many beautiful things, and one of these things is to be a silent presence among the people. Many times, we do not need to say a word, we just need to be with them sharing their joy and their pain.
In our missionary life there are some aspects which helped me to live with serenity and joy during this period of insertion, for example spirit of adaptation, in order to adjust to a different culture and a different way of doing pastoral service, but also humility, in order to be guided and taught by others. I tried to live all these moments with faith and trust in Jesus, who called and sent me to proclaim the Good News.
If I could express a wish and an advice for those who are just starting their missionary life is: at the beginning we need to observe with attention everything that is happening around us,
so to learn the way of life of the local people, how they relate with each other, how they greet each other. We need to observe with an open mind in order to understand the new reality without prejudice or judgments.
I have learnt to love and admire this people. They have become part of my life, though I know I still have a long way to go in learning about them and with them. But I really think that mission is this continue learning and sharing life and faith.
Sr Maria Clara Pires – Delegation Hong Kong – China