Breathing new life into Macau’s remotest parish

Marco Carvalho

Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-Sang visited Macau’s most remote parish on November 26th. The pastoral visit was conceived with the aim of introducing the new parochial administrator of Saint Francis Xavier parish, Father Tiago, to Coloane’s small Catholic community.

Rector of the Redemptoris Mater College, the Brazilian priest co-celebrated the Eucharist with Bishop Stephen Lee and, after the Mass, had a brief meeting with his parishioners. His mission as the head of Coloane’s scanty Catholic flock started on a high note on the fourth of December, with the celebration of the liturgical feast of the patron saint of the island’s only parish. “Honestly, it was a godsend, the feast of Saint Francis Xavier. I was ordained a deacon on the feast day of Saint Francis Xavier and I feel a great gift was bestowed upon me when I was asked to lead this mission in Saint Francis Xavier parish,” the Brazilian missionary admits. “I still haven’t had much contact with the parishioners. Back when I was announced as the new parochial administrator, the Mass was presided over by Bishop D. Stephen Lee and it was not the right occasion for that kind of interaction. After the Mass, nevertheless, I did speak to some of the parishioners about the way the feast of Saint Francis Xavier should be celebrated. And we decided that we should stick to the liturgical part, without any other type of celebration and that was what we did,” Father Tiago told O Clarim.

The new parochial administrator of the only Catholic church in Coloane is still taking stock of the local reality, namely the one he found in the parish for which he is now responsible. A missionary with the Neocatechumenal Way, Father Tiago takes on the difficult mission of reinvigorating the life of the Church in the only truly peripheral parish in Macau.

“I’ve just arrived in Macau, but I was told this is a very small reality, even when we consider it from the perspective of parish dynamics: only one Mass is celebrated in the parish. The experience I had over the last few years had a very Chinese background and that actually helped me to improve my understanding of that culture. I think that experience can be really useful, in the sense that it will help us to enter and better understand the Chinese reality of Macau,” the Brazilian priest says.

To go out and announce the Gospel

The pastoral work that Father Tiago and his fellow missionaries intend to carry out in the parish of Saint Francis Xavier is neither exclusively centred around the Chinese community, nor merely directed at those who are already familiar with the Word of God. The rector of the Redemptoris Mater College for the Evangelization of Asia, whose headquarters will be located in Colane, also wants to summon to the presence of God the foreign citizens that live in the residential tower blocks located in the outer limits of the parish.

“I had the opportunity to discuss our plans with Bishop Stephen Lee and, from this week onwards, we will go and visit all our parishioners. Not only parishioners, actually. We want to pay a visit to everyone’s house in the neighbourhood. Coloane is, actually, a relatively large parish. There is the residential towers in One Oasis, where we find a completely different world, a non-Chinese world. There’s a large number of foreigners living there,” the new parochial administrator of Saint Francis Xavier parish recalls. “We are also considering going there. Our aim is to start some kind of ministry with this foreign community, both at One Oasis and at Hac Sa. And we have the necessary tools to do so. There are currently 12 seminarians in the Redemptoris Mater College. We intend to split up into several groups and visit a few houses every week. Little by little, I think we will be able to fulfil our mission,” Father Tiago says.

Established in 2019 on the initiative of the former Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples – currently known as the Dicastery for Evangelization – the Redemptoris Mater College for the Evangelization of Asia has, as its main mission, the spiritual preparation of missionaries, so that they can go out and announce the Gospel all over Asia. The seminary is currently home to a dozen students, who hail from regions as diverse as Europe, the United States, South America and India.

Three years after its establishment, the College remains true to its purpose, even though the Covid-19 pandemic challenged its very own existence. “Three years ago, on the express will of Pope Francis, the Redemptoris Mater College for Asia was established, with its headquarters here in Macau. The seminary was created in 2019 and we moved to Macau. Shortly after, in February 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we left and we were not permitted to return because we were not residents. We currently rent a few houses in Coloane but the space was not big enough for our needs,” Father Tiago told O Clarim.

“It was then that Bishop Stephen Lee, and we thank him for all his generosity, bestowed the parish of Coloane upon us. In Coloane, there exists a pastoral centre and the facility will serve as the headquarters of the Redemptoris Mater College. The structure was left vacant for a very long time and it has deteriorated quite considerably. This means that we cannot transfer immediately. We need to do some renovation work and we are waiting for different construction companies to give us their quote. Nevertheless, the renewal process will be split into several phases: first, we will make space for a few rooms, a kitchen and a dining room. Then, little by little, we will move on and deal with the rest,” the new parochial administrator of the parish of Saint Francis Xavier (Coloane) concludes.