Saint Lazarus Church – A Beacon of a Lively Faith

Marco Carvalho

A dozen Catholics, a whopping majority in their teens, will receive the sacrament of Confirmation in Saint Lazarus Church on the 29th of May, the parish priest Fr João Evangelista Lau told O Clarim.

The group also includes a few adults who have shown their willingness to revitalize their relationship with God. The religious fervor and increase in devoutness already visible in other parishes seems to be gaining ground in the Saint Lazarus parish, according to Fr Lau. The number of young people interested in deepening their faith is increasing. “Something is happening and I find it a little strange. In recent years, it seems that more and more young people are returning to the Church. They are eager to receive Communion first and Confirmation later. This is a new trend, and it baffles me,” the parish priest admits.

Fr Lau, a former director of the Saint Pius X Music Academy, adds, “Another curious thing that is happening is that there are many young people who want to become godparents. But without being confirmed, they cannot be godfathers or godmothers. This is also happening.”

Usually held on the last weekend of May, the Confirmation ceremony in Saint Lazarus Church coincides with the celebration of the Parochial Day. The traditionhas been carried out for over two centuries to celebrate the end of the Marian month. “In the past, this was the parish that grouped the Chinese Catholics. All the Chinese Catholics used to belong to this parish,” the veteran priest says. “Back then, the parishioners created two brotherhoods. One of these brotherhoods instituted a celebration to be held at the end of the Marian month. That feast became the Parochial Day celebration. The parish invites the bishop to come here to preside over the Confirmation ceremony. A solemn Mass is also celebrated, with the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the past, we also used to organize a procession to honor Our Lady, but this procession was suspended after the 12-3 incident. However, the celebration that ends the Marian month has survived until today,” Fr Lau recalls.

In the streets of the Saint Lazarus neighborhood, memory and modernity go hand in hand, but when it comes to the celebration of devotion, tradition is still an asset.

On May 29th, Saint Lazarus Church will receive once again Bishop Stephen Lee to celebrate a Marian devotion that goes back centuries, and also to confirm in their faith about a dozen young and not-so-young Catholics.

“The Confirmation takes place on the Parochial Day. The Bishop of Macau comes here to preside over the ceremony,” the priest reiterates. “First Holy Communion is normally held on the first or the second Sunday of June. There are two different celebrations. Regarding Confirmation, this year we have around ten people. We have a few adults and the remaining Confirmation candidates are around 14 years old, and they are part of our Catechesis group,” Fr Lau informs us.

And if tradition dictates that the Confirmation ceremony must be celebrated on the last Sunday of May, the custom in the Saint Lazarus Parish is for First Communion to be celebrated right before the end of the catechetical year. “In the past, we also used to celebrate First Communion on our Parochial Day, but not anymore. Now, First Communion is customarily celebrated after our Parish Day. It will take place at a different time, on the first or second Sunday before the end of catechesis. It is usually a bit of a moment for the children who attend catechesis. More than twenty children will receive their First Communion this year,” the parish priest of Saint Lazarus explains.

Nurture the young and old alike

In Saint Lazarus, the pastoral activity reaches its climax in the months of May and June, but the spiritual accompaniment of the local Catholics goes far beyond the moments of celebration. The parish – one of the smallest in Macau – has been promoting regular meetings with a group of young people since early this year, in order to understand the anxieties and expectations of the younger generations. “We have been promoting this initiative for four months now. We aim to bring young people together from time to time, so that they feel that we care and that they are not alone. These meetings were first held at the beginning of the year, and they usually take place after Mass. I offer them breakfast, and we talk a little about what concerns them,” adds the priest.

Fr João Lau wants to dedicate to the elderly that same kind of attention that the parish shows towards the younger generation. The 78-years-old parish priest wants the elderly to be physically and spiritually nurtured during their later years. Fr Lau says, “It is a project that speaks to my heart and that I would like to see carried out. As I am already a man of a certain age, I would like to do something to help the elderly, to help them in pastoral terms.” “One of the purposes of the project is to prepare the elderly for their earthly farewell. The other is to help them live their remaining years with dignity. Before retirement, these people didn’t have time to do much. After they retire, they can do whatever they want, but they don’t have much time”, the parish priest of Saint Lazarus claims.

Fifty years of service to God

Seventy-eight years, nearly half a century of priesthood. Fr João Evangelista Lau – born Lau Him-sang – will celebrate the golden anniversary of his priestly ordination in October. The parish priest of Saint Lazarus was ordained on October 28th, 1972 by Bishop Paulo José Tavares. In the very same ceremony, which took place in the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, in northern Macau, Fr Jacob Tchong and the Bishop Emeritus of Macau, D. José Lai Hung-seng, were also ordained. “This year I will celebrate 50 years of my priestly ordination. I was ordained on October 28, 1972, together with Bishop José Lai and a second priest, who is now in Australia,” Fr Lau recalls.

The anniversary, a major milestone in the life of any soldier of Jesus Christ, will be celebrated at the end of October in Saint Lazarus Church. “I will celebrate a thanksgiving Mass on October 29th in the morning at Saint Lazarus,” Fr Lau concludes.