“You have the responsibility to be messengers of hope”. This is the first message that Father Arturo Sosa delivered to the students of Ricci College, gathered in the heart of Old Macau near the walls of the first Jesuit settlement on Chinese soil. Father General encouraged young people and their teachers to work to build a future of hope, not only for themselves but also for others.
In many parts of the world where Catholics are the minority, the Society of Jesus is best known - and recognized - for its educational institutions. In Macau, two colleges represent the Jesuit educational tradition: Estrela do Mar, whose director is Mr. Kolbe Vong, and Colegio Mateus Ricci, under the direction of Mrs. Irene Cheong.
Upon Father General’s visit to their schools, Mr. Vong and Mrs. Cheong testified to their commitment and their attachment to the mission of the Society of Jesus. The theme of the Chinese Province visit is “Building Ignatian Bridges”. Here is what the director of Estrela do Mar said:
“In my daily activities, I manifest my identity as a lay collaborator in a Jesuit institution. Our school insists on the principle of education without discrimination, but with a preference for the poor. We also insist on reconciliation and have a real focus on the protection of minors. Above all, we stress the importance of self-examination and discernment.
First of all, we must let people know that we are a Catholic school, a Jesuit school that promotes the characteristics of Jesuit education such as the “magis” and “A.M.D.G.” In addition, through morning prayers and religious culture classes, we have begun to introduce the examination of conscience and the practice of discernment in our school. These are important elements of Jesuit education. In doing so, we are building a bridge between the people of Macau and the Society of Jesus.”
When asked what motivates him in his work, Kolbe Vong answered: “I was a student at this school myself and taught here for 26 years. My whole life is linked to this school! Now, what I want above all else is to give back what I received. And what I hope is that my testimony is not just words, but that it is visible in my actions.”
For her part, Mrs. Irene Cheong confided:
“Since the founding of Colegio Mateus Ricci, we have been serving low-income families or young people struggling to succeed in their studies. Non-Catholics represent 99% of the school community. Through the presence of Jesuits and the formation of various staff members, we try to implement Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy, integrating them into the fundamental values and identity of the school. We promote them in school activities and programs. In religious, civic and moral education courses, which is a fundamental subject from kindergarten to the end of secondary school, also in the classes of universal history and Chinese history.
We furthermore provide students and families with a villa in Coloane (a neighbouring island) where they can enjoy nature and outdoor activities. In all these contexts, we build bridges with God, with people of different faiths, with the poor, with young people to give them hope, with the Macao community, with nature and between Eastern and Western cultures.”
She admitted that when she arrived at the Colegio Ricci, she knew nothing about Matteo Ricci or Saint Ignatius. Since then, she has read and participated in retreats. It transformed her life and her relationship with others and with God. “I was then called upon,” she said, “to spread the Ignatian values that are so valid for everyone - whether Catholic or not.”