A good shepherd who can unite Hong Kong Catholics

This is excellent news indeed: Fr Stephen Chow Sauyan, provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus, is the new bishop of Hong Kong.

May 22, 2021

Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan was obviously trained for a role of leadership in high academic education. (Photo courtesy of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus)

By  Gianni Criveller

This is excellent news indeed: Fr Stephen Chow Sauyan, provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society  of Jesus, is the new bishop of Hong Kong. 

The faithful’s reaction is positive: Hong Kong urgently  needed a young leader, in full possession of the authority of  an ordinary bishop, able to take on long-term leadership for  a community that is going through perhaps the most challenging time in its history.

Maybe 61-year-old Fr Chow is not a particularly wellknown figure in the Catholic community, or even in the  city, but those who know him describe him as a prepared  and kind person, a man of sincere faith and attentive to the  education of young people.

Our sincere congratulations go to him. It is nice that the  Catholic community finally has a pastor and that he is a  person who gives us deep trust and hope. We find it positive  that he is a Jesuit as well. Hopefully, he will have access to  Pope Francis, representing to him Hong Kong’s upsetting  situation (on which the Vatican has so far been adamantly  silent).

Fr Chow has an educational background of unusual excellence. He was obviously trained for a role of leadership  in high academic education. And so far, he has done well as  supervisor of the two Wah Yan colleges and as the Chinese  Jesuits’ provincial.

He was in the small group responsible for implementing  a Jesuit university project in Hong Kong about a decade  ago. The ambitious and important project would have finally brought a Catholic university to the city. The Society of Jesus and its then general superior, Adolfo Nicolas,  were highly committed. But Hong Kong’s pro-communist  chief executive, CY Leung turned the tables by denying  the promised concession in Queen’s Hill (Fanling). It was  a serious setback for the educational projects of the Society  of Jesus and the diocesan and academic community of the  city. Stephen Chow himself has sadly experienced the government’s strict policy on academic freedom.

The freedom of Catholic schools is one of the main challenges that the Hong Kong Diocese has to face in this difficult period. The appointment of Father Chow bodes well  that there will be a significant commitment to safeguarding  educational freedom.

Last December, the Chinese MingPao Weekly magazine  interviewed Fr Chow about his experience as a supervisor  in a Jesuit school. He described himself and his mission  as “a bridge” in words that might now sound like a programme.

“After the 2019 movement, the society became divided.  Teachers and students in our school were divided as well.  Nobody is neutral in society. If I tell you that I am neutral,  I may be lying. But I listen and accept other opinions. A  bridge must be stepped over by people so that it can bring  people to the other side. Being a bridge entails bearing a  burden. My words may not cater to both sides but, at least,  it brings people from the two sides to come together in the  middle. Otherwise, there is no future for society,” he told  the magazine.

Many commentators linked Fr Chow’s appointment as  bishop to the fact that, unlike other candidates, he is not  seen as politically divisive. We prefer to describe this as a  genuine pastoral, ecclesial and spiritual choice. The bishop  is a shepherd who leads the community forward, protects it,  keeps people united and looks for the lost ones. We believe  Bishop-elect Chow will be such a good shepherd. ––ucanews.com

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