Sr. Judith Yuen, fmm
Another good pastor in St. Lawrence Parish who has influenced my growth was Fr. Marcus Chen. When I was baptized in 1962, I hardly realised his existence. During those days, he came to our parish every weekend to help.
He usually came Saturday late evening, we only saw the light in his roomat the first floor, a small room converted from a meeting room of the school, we often felt curious who was the one staying there in the school so late. The church was above the school hall while the school and the church were joined using the same staircases. We dared not to go crossing the boundary, so our curiosity was not quenched. At times, we saw him coming out, taking a look at us. He looked serious, especially with his dark complexion and big eyes, smoking from his pipe. He was solidly built, that means, quite stout; when he tried to communicate with us, we could not understand what he was saying, the more we wanted to find out about him. Then we saw him celebrating the earliest Sunday Mass, those days the Eucharist was celebrated in Latin, so we could not figure out his nationality. After Vat II, when we started using Chinese for Mass, he used Mandarin, and the homily was given by another priest in Cantonese. So we guessed he was from the North of China and he did not speak Cantonese.
As time went by, we greeted him when we met him and gradually took courage to peep into his room. His room was very simple: a bed, a night table, a small wardrobe a desk and a wooden chair, quite a Franciscan look. Later, he got two rattan chairs, then, he was able to invite us to go in for a chat. He unfolded his story to us…he came from Ji Nam in Shang Tung Province, he came to Hong Kong and was invited to work with the Franciscan friars to translate the Bible into Chinese, the translation was coming to a close. He tried to get us interested to read the Word of God by giving us discount for early purchase of the Chinese Bible. A clever steward of the Word of God!
Talking with him needed much effort on both sides, little by little we could guess what he was expressing and he started to learn some words in Cantonese from us. Then he told us his longing to learn Cantonese, to be adapted to the local culture as emphasized by Vatican II. Seeing his zeal to learn the language for evangelization, we, the members of the Children of Mary, were urged to take turns to teach him Cantonese every Saturday evening. We enjoyed looking at his facial expressions when he pronounced the Cantonese words, sometimes we roared and he joined us in laughter. We saw Franciscan humility and joy in him! He really worked very hard. After sometime, he started to say Mass in Cantonese, then delivered the homily in Cantonese! Though we could only understand less than half of what he was saying, we were satisfied and gave him encouragement to go on. You have to admire his courage and will power to persevere: can you imagine, he started to teach Biblical courses in Cantonese, he also led groups to the Holy Land for pilgrimage in Cantonese!! People in touch with him not only accept his Mandarin style Cantonese but love to listen to him…isn’t that great!! It was his love and zeal for the Word of God and for evangelization that ignited the fire in us.
Fr. Marcus was very friendly, humorous and was always on the move, ready to discover and try new things. He was like a loving father to us, so we started to call him ‘Dad’ in the parish, then his new name spread far and wide, he became ‘Dad’ for everyone who encountered him. Our Dad had a strong will, he always held onto his ideal and would not succumb to difficulties or hardships. This was displayed clearly when he had a stroke, after he recovered, not totally, he started again his mission in translating books related to the Bible, still led groups to pilgrimage until his health did not permit him to do so. The last time I saw him was in the home for the aged in Wong Chuk Hang, he was still finishing the last touch on the translation. It was strange to see him with scotch tape on his eye lid. I asked him what he was doing, he told me calmly, with a smile, in his usual humor, ‘ My eye lid is not obedient, it keeps falling down (effect of the stroke). I cannot see clearly the text, so the simplest and cheapest way is to use scotch tape to pull it up so that I can see clearly and finish the translation, or God will not let me go home.’ He managed to accomplish his mission and the good God kept his promise, he was brought back home.
What I can see in Dad is a true lover of the Word of God, a zealous follower of Christ, an authentic missionary, a caring father for everyone who approached him. He taught me to live as a child of the loving Father by his own life. Being loved, there is no worry, no fear, instead, always hope, it generates peace and joy in my heart, keeps me going in spite of difficulties or hardships. My memory of Dad keeps me advancing in the dark, laughing in the rain, for I know, as he had experienced, there is a God who loves me, cares for me, always stands by my side to lead me on. One day he will bring me home, sweet home, where I can see my Dad again, to listen to his Mandarin style Cantonese again and to laugh with him. The most important thing is, like Dad, I will see my loving God face to face. I am looking forward to that GREAT JOYFUL DAY! (to be continued)