IEONG CHI CHAU WRITES MISSIONARY’S FIRST BIOGRAPHY – Father Ruiz helped people, regardless of their religion or race

– Marco Carvalho

Professor Ieong Chi Chau was challenged by Macau International Institute to conduct an endearing but difficult task: to write Father Luis Ruiz’s first biography. A former Vice-president of the Macao Catholic Schools Association, Ieong is convinced that “the last great missionary of China“ is a serious candidate for sainthood.

Father Ruiz is seen by many as the last great missionary to work in China. His legacy is still very alive today.  How did this book come to be?

Well, one day I met the Secretary-General of Macau International Institute, Mr. Rufino Ramos, and he said the Institute was publishing a series of books on the legacy of the missionaries that lived and worked in Macau during the last century. With these books, the Institute was expecting to educate people on the contributions that these missionaries gave both to Macau and to Macau people during the last one hundred years or so. Some of these books were published in Portuguese first and then translated into Chinese, as was the case with the book about Father Áureo Castro. The book that I wrote, about Father Luis Ruiz, the Institute wanted to have it in Chinese first and then translate it to Portuguese afterwards.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced writing this book?

On the one hand, it was the lack of documents and textual information – books or others – about Father Luis, his life and legacy. On the other hand, it was not easy to find photographies of Father Luis to illustrate the book, specially his early years – those comprised between the 1950’s and the 1970’s – in Macau. Therefore, I had to make a bigger effort to overcome the above difficulties and organize the structure of this book in a logical and intuitive way.

Father Ruiz had a fruitful and by all means admirable life. Was it easy to write about such an impressive person without losing focus of what really matters? How hard was to write this book? How long did it last to investigate it?

At first, it was quite not easy indeed, but I received a lot of support from different people who have worked or co-operated with Father Luis Ruiz. They shared with me different experiences and stories or offered me some photographs and documents about Father Luis. I spent about half a year looking for information, reading and investigating; watching some short movies from different websites, interviewing people, taking and collecting photos. Then, I spent about three months organizing that information and writing the book.

What impressed you the most about Father Ruiz? His life? Or his legacy?

He was a hard working priest. He helped people, regardless of their religion or race. He helped people to overcome challenges and to achieve their best. No one can say that his actions were not according to the will of God.

Father Ruiz managed to turn himself into a Chinese at heart. He lived most of his life in Macau but his heart was always in China, with lepers and persons with HIV. Is he sufficiently known in China? Do you think the residents of Macau know who he is?

Sure. He completed his theological formation in China and also served until very recently with lepers and persons with HIV in several regions of the Mainland. However, some of his great works were conducted here in Macau from the 1950s onwards until his death.I am utterly convinced  that many Macau residents, mainly the older generations, still keep fond memories and a deep impression of Father Ruiz.

The work Father Ruiz made in China is all more admirable if we have in mind that the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Chinese Government was never very straightforward. China and the Vatican have recently signed an agreement intended to improve that very same relationship. Do you think it can help the work being made by Casa Ricci Social Services in Mainland China?

I think so. And I hope so. Casa Ricci Social Services is offering a great service in Mainland China. I believe that the services it offers are still of great benefit both for the Chinese population and for Mainland China authorities. I expect them still to be of great use in the forthcoming years.

What would you say was the biggest contribution or the biggest legacy that Father Ruiz left to Macau?

His work. His work is the light and heat of what he did in the name of God.

The work he made with the “poorest of the poor” in Macau and in China is somehow comparable to the work Mother Teresa made in India. Could Father Ruiz be a candidate to sainthood?

I agree with that perspective.

Your book has been published only in Chinese. Would you like to see it published in Portuguese and English also?

For all I know, the Portuguese version is being translated. Of course, if we want to let more people know Father Luis, his work and his legacy, the English version is necessary.

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