Our Guardian Angels - the three chaplains

The spiritual pillar of every Serra Club is its chaplain. The Serra Club of Hong Kong is fortunate to have three outstanding chaplains since its formation 50 years ago. The length of service of our chaplain gives us continuity – our chaplains, like the biblical shepherd, know their Serrans and continually give them valuable spiritual guidance. The tradition of the Serra Club of Hong Kong is such that our chaplains are our true friends as well as our spiritual advisers.

Bishop Francis Hsu 徐誠斌主教 (1920-1973)

Our First Chaplain was Rev. Fr. (later Bishop) Francis C .P. Hsu. A pintsized man who was known to some of his collegiate friends simply as C.P., Francis Hsu was born on 20th February 1920. A native of Ningpo, he was brought up and received his early education in Shanghai. He graduated from St. John's University in Shanghai and immediately thereafter proceeded to Merton College of Oxford Univer sity where he distinguished himself by taking his postgraduate degree in English Literature in record time.

Born of Protestant parents, he was for many years a staunch Anglican. But at quite an early stage he had manifested a keen interest in the Catholic faith. While he was at Oxford, this interest rapidly developed into an attraction which he found more and more difficult to resist. He was eventually baptized and received into the Catholic Church in May 1949.

In 1949 Francis Hsu returned from Oxford to Nanking where shortly thereafter Peter Lee, Richard Tan, John Wong, Michael Chuang, Francis Lai, Michael Tang, Lesie Hung, Wilfred Lee, Winnie Yau -Jan, 29, 2013 he was appointed a Professor of English at the National Central University. His academic career was, however, destined to be short-lived because while the communists at about this time were quickly overrunning China, Francis Hsu was gradually and steadily convinced that he would do much better to dedicate himself to the service of God than that of the academic world. In this own words, "it would be far superior to help save even a single soul than to educate a thousand undergraduates".

In 1955 he decided to learn more about the church and himself. He went to Beda College in Rome where people with late vocations are gathered together to study theology and philosophy, and are given every assistance and oppor tunity to discover themselves. There he remained until 1959 when he was finally ordained.

While in Rome he was discovered by Bishop Lawrence Bianchi with whom he soon became the best of friends. As a result of this association, Francis Hsu asked to be and was posted to Hong Kong after his ordination.

Upon his return to Hong Kong in 1959, Francis Hsu took on various jobs assigned to him including the editorship of the Kung Kao Po and the directorship of the Catholic Centre. When the Serra Club of Hong Kong was inaugurated late in 1960, he became the first chaplain and with uncanny wisdom guided that organization to the road of many achievements.

In 1967 history was made in Hong Kong when Francis Hsu became the first Auxillary Bishop. Later, he was the first Chinese Bishop to be appointed in Hong Kong. In October 1967, the Most Reverend Francis C.P. Hsu was consecrated Titular Bishop of Orrea. On June 14, 1969, the Right Rev. Francis C.P. Hsu succeeded as the third Bishop of Hong Kong. Although he was physically a very small man even by Chinese standards, Bishop Francis C.P. Hsu was at all times much bigger than his bodily size-he was indeed, a Petit Giant.

At the 1972 annual Bishop's dinner with Serrans, Bishop Francis C .P. Hsu encouraged our members not to be disappointed when praying for priestly and religious vocations. "Continue to pray for priestly and religious vocations for the Church. Do not despair – your prayers will surely be answered by God. You may not see an immediate rise in vocations in Hong Kong – but they will come in Poland, the south American countries, South Korea or even from inside China. Trust in Our Lord –and continue to pray for labourers for His vineyard."

Unfortunately, Bishop Francis C.P. Hsu passed away suddenly on May 23, 1973. Hong Kong lost its Bishop, the diocese lost a great leader, and the Serra Club of Hong Kong lost a dear and inspiring friend.

[Abridged from the Serra Club of Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Publication pp.22-23]

Father Joseph Carra PIME (1921-1991)

Our Second chaplain was Rev. Fr. Joseph Carra PIME who was born in Codogno (Milan), Italy on 20th February 1921. He joined the Pontificial Institute for Foreign Missions on 3rd October 1943, and was ordained priest on June 29, 1946. Fr. Carra served as a missionary in China in 1947 – 1953. After coming to Hong Kong, he was very active in the Lay Apostolate, and was associated with the Serra Club of Hong Kong from the very beginning. He was a giant physically, spiritually and intellectually; he was also a giant in his capacity for work and in his ability to persuade and motivate.

During his 28 years as the Club Chaplain, Fr. Carra attended almost all our meetings, functions and international conventions. His spiritual talks at our general meetings were always short, precise, effective and sometimes blunt. He was not one to shy away from controversial issues and always spoke his mind when needed.

Fr. Carra devoted his life to education and lay apostolic work in Hong Kong. A man who loved God and His creatures, a man of immense charitable compassion, a man of vision and foresight, and a man true to his missionar y call, Fr. Carra could not restrict his services only to education . In the pre-Vatican I I era, his call for the involvement of the laity in apostolic work was not much understood, nor was this concept easily accepted by the conservative-minded. It was through close working relationship with lay persons that people from every walk of life came to know and under stand him. He was instrumental in establishing the Serra Club of Hong Kong (the first Serra Club in the Far East) in 1963 and the Christian Association for Executives (CAFE) a few year s later. So dedicated was he to the sound objectives in the promotion of religious vocations and the formation of Catholic lay leaders that he took time to attend even sub-committee meetings in the early years. He attended almost every annual convention of Serra International, with the only exception being the last one for which he was registered but unable to show up because of failing health. In 1985, he received a special citation from Serra International for his outstanding ser vice as Club Chaplain. He was instrumental in bringing Serra to Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Sarawak and Taiwan – somewhat reminiscent of the string of mission stations in California founded by the Blessed Junipero Serra.

He also served as Regional Superior of the PIME in Hong Kong during 1968 – 1972 and as the Supervisor of Raimondi College (the first Catholic Diocesan School) during 1958 – 1991 and as the Supervisor of St. Joan of Arc School from 1970-1982. Although he was active in so many academic and lay associations of the diocese, Serra was always his privileged baby. No matter how busy he was, Fr. Carra was always available to the Serrans, in person or by phone, both as a friend and as a spiritual advisor.

Mention must be made of Fr. Carra's legendary "Spagetti Dinners." Fr. Carra was, of course, well known for his culinary skills. All his friends knew that when one was invited to dine, something more substantial was afoot. Before the dinner was over, Fr. Carra's eloquence would have convinced the guests to carry out his pet project faithfully and promptly.

Fr. Carra passed away suddenly on Dec. 31, 1991. It is clear that Fr. Joseph Carra has accomplished many achievements for the glory of God – as an apostle of the Serran Movement in Asia, an educationalist, a promoter of Christain ideals in business practice and as a friend and spiritual guide to many generations of Hong Kong Serrans. One regret he had at his death bed was his inability to establish a Serra Club inside China even though he had lived at its doorsteps for over 40 years. Indeed, this giant of giants will be long remembered by the Serra Club of Hong Kong – and, who knows, his last wish may still become a reality in the not too distant future.

[Editor's Note : This became a reality on 1st July, 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China.]
[Abridged from the Serra club of Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Publication pp.24-25]

Father John Baptist Tsang 曾慶文神父

Our Third Chaplain is Rev. Fr. John B. Tsang who was born in China and educated in Macau. He entered the Regional Seminary in Aberdeen, Hong Kong in 1956 and obtained a Diploma of Philosophy and Theology. He was ordained by Bishop Lawrence Bianchi on June 29, 1963.

Fr. Tsang served as Assistant Parish Priest at St. Francis of Assisi Church between 1963-1965, after which he was sent abroad to fur ther his training, obtaining a Diploma of Catechetics from Lumen Vital, Brussels, Belgium in 1966 a Diploma of Pastoral Catechetics from the Institute Catholique de Parish, Paris, France in 1967.

On his return to Hong Kong, Fr. Tsang ser ved as a lecturer and then Centre Director at the Diocesan Catechetical Centre, Hong Kong (1967-1971).

He served as Prison Chaplain at Victoria Reception Centre (1970-1971) and Chaplain of Catholic Scouts in Hong Kong (1971-1972), then as Vice Rector (1971-1973), Acting Rector (1973-1974) and finally Rector (1974-1980) of the Holy Spirit Seminary. Fr. Tsang ser ved as President of the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosphy in 1980-1981. From 1981-1992, Fr. Tsang was the Vice-President of Caritas Hong Kong, and served as the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong from 1985-1992. Between 1992-2000, Fr. Tsang was the Parish Priest of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and has been the Parish Priest of Rosary Church, Kowloon from October 2000 onwards.

Besides serving as the Chaplain of the Serra Club of Hong Kong since 1981, Fr. Tsang also served in the following organizations:-
(i) Caritas Hong Kong Council, vice-chairman (1985–present)
(ii) Caritas Hong Kong Board of Management, member (1985–present)
(iii) Caritas Hong Kong Adult and Higher EducationCouncil, member (1985–present)
(iv) Lenten Campaign Committee Chairperson
(v) Raimondi College, School Supervisor (1992–2012)

Fr. Tsang was also appointed as Advisor on Hong Kong Affairs of the People's Republic of China between 1994–1997.

As our chaplain, Fr. Tsang has never been pushy or domineering. In his quiet and gentle manner, he always manages to guide our members to arrive at the correct decision. He is also our resource person, locating the appropriate guest speaker or retreat master whenever needed. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time whenever our club faces a crises; with Fr. Tsang around, our members will never be at a loss – he is our gentle and kind sheperd.

In the summer of 2012, Fr. Tsang was suddenly taken ill with a sub-dural hematoma, underwent emergency brain surgery. With God's grace, he recovered completely from this surgery and continued with his work at the usual hectic pace.

When the Serra Club of Hong Kong celebrates its golden jubilee, Fr. Tsang will also celebrate the golden jubilee of his ordination. Fr. Tsang has been our chaplain for 32 years come 2013. My wish is that Fr. Tsang will "continue to grow old (or young) with me, for the best is yet to be".

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