COMBINING DIOCESAN HISTORY AND LOCAL LITURGY – Interviewing Director of Diocesan Liturgy Commission Fr Albert Ho Ka-Fai

Benedict Keith Ip

The Diocesan Liturgy Commission was established to assist the Bishop to promote liturgical life within the Diocese, thus leading the Macau faithful to “worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23-24).

Since its establishment in July last year, the Commission has held a number of public lectures. Fr Albert Ho Ka-fai, SDB, has been appointed Director. With the occasion of upcoming commemorations and solemnities, O CLARIM took the opportunity to interview Fr Ho, in order to have a deeper understanding of the work of the Liturgy Commision.

Why are you interested in Church liturgy?

When I was a seminarian, I already had great interest in worship through beautiful liturgy. I had my internship in the parish of Our Lady Help of Christians in my third year in Theology and as a deacon. The parish of Our Lady Help of Christians is inside Tang King Po School (Kowloon). After my ordination, I was sent to teach at the same school for a total of 11 years. This called for many liturgical ceremonies…. In any case, my life has been constantly organizing the liturgy.

During the yearly Day for Consecrated Life (2nd Feb), the Hong Kong Association of Religious Men and Women would invite me to arrange some activities.

My academic research, however, is on counselling and psychology, specializing on how to maintain mental health. I hope to pursue a PhD in education or counselling psychology in the future, especially for the youth.

How does the Commission gather information?

We have certain channels for collecting relevant information. First of all, the Commission set up advisers that included Fr João Evangelista Lau, Fr Lau Chit Meng and Fr Tadeu Tang Si Yan, etc. We consult these advisers before our meetings.

Our Diocese has a long history, as well as many traditions and customs. It is necessary to consult some senior priests in the Diocese, to gain a better understanding of the history.

In addition, the Commission has involved different people. For example, in order to take care of the Portuguese faithful, we have appointed some members who can speak Portuguese to attend the meetings, as well as some altar servers and parishioners, etc. As for Liturgical Theology we are assisted by Dr Anna Chan. Members of the Commission represent a comprehensive range of stakeholders, for instance, in the area of theology, liturgy, practical aspects, major language communities (Portuguese, Chinese and English).

How can the faithful communicate with the Commission?

At the moment we have set up an official website and hotline to facilitate inquiries. For example, when the parishes have some inquiries in liturgy, they can use the web page (cdl@catholic.org.mo) or the hotline.

Have you considered publishing liturgical books or hymn books for the Macau Diocese?

Due to the limited human resources, our focus will not be on publishing for the moment. The current focus is mainly on two aspects: first is the liturgy of the Holy Week, including the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the liturgical arrangements on the Paschal Triduum, these are more urgent.

Second is to consider making a pamphlet on the official feasts in the Diocese. For example the Mass readings of the main feasts, like St Francis of Assisi. It also involves the two feast days of the Diocese’s patron saints, memorial of blessing of the Cathedral, memorial of St. John the Baptist (on 24 June) etc. Of course, the content will be done in all three languages in order to facilitate the participation of the faithful. We have one priest who can concentrate on Portuguese translation. For Chinese and English there are not so many difficulties at the moment, since there are many resources on the internet.

Another important task is to update the English Mass, because some committee members mentioned in the previous meeting that some English Masses are still using the older version of translation. This has to be settled gradually. I remember the Diocese of Hong Kong spent one whole year to adopt the new translation.

How about cooperation and exchange with other circumscriptions?

To implement a cross-regional committee for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan region is relatively low [on the agenda]. Taiwan has its own Episcopal Conference, along with its own liturgy commission. Macau and Hong Kong do not belong to any Episcopal Conference.

Nonetheless, communication and cooperation are still required. At the moment, our communication and coordination work is mainly in the text and translation work. In addition, we can cooperate in the area of sacred music, as well as some liturgical lectures. When we are more mature, we can also provide some cross-regional courses.

What authority does the Commission have on the implementation?

Ultimately, it is Bishop who leads the liturgy. The Liturgy Commission is only there to help the bishop to promote the liturgical-sacramental life. The Commission does not enforce any law: the final decision and announcement goes to the Bishop. Our main work is to promote education in the liturgy, as well as to plan the liturgy in the Diocese.

Our function is different from the Chancellor’s, because the Chancellor has an executive position. Of course, we need to follow the liturgical documents such as Sacrosanctum Concilium, Redemptionis Sacramentum, and the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani.

Macau has alway had some traditional devotions, such as the Procession of the Passion of Our Lord. What assistance does the Commission provide in these activities?

We need to work with the associations and organizations that arrange these devotions and processions. In this aspect, we need to learn from the advising priests how to plan these activities. I think we will still need to consult them in the coming few years. Frankly speaking, there are many people involved in the Commission, but they are involved not only in the Diocese, but also in some governmental organizations, bands and so on.

Most churches in Macau are old. Will there be some renovations, or new construction?

Our Diocese is one of the most historical dioceses in the Far East. We have many old churches that need to be maintained at the present condition. In addition, we also hope to maintain, or even restore, some historical liturgical items and vestments, so that they won’t merely become exhibits for display. If there are some well preserved statues, we hope to continue using them.

In addition, we have many relics in this Diocese. Following the Bishop’s indication, we are trying to find an area to have them properly placed for the veneration of the faithful. We hope to find a venue that is open and safe.

Finally, do you have any words for young people?

Strive to be a good Catholic. A good Catholic means attaching importance to daily prayers, reading the Bible, devoutly attending Sunday Masses, doing Confession, as well as discerning the calling from God, i.e. one’s vocation. In short, to open their ears and listen the voice of God.

Translation: Jasmin Yiu

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