50 Years of Labour and Love
- a brief history of Serra Club of Hong Kong

It was in the midst of Vatican Council II that the message of Serra was first brought to Hong Kong. A member of the Serra International Board of Trustees had a short stop-over at Kai Tak Airport and he made a telephone call to the Catholic Centre promoting the message of Serra. Bishop Lawrence Bianchi was very keen on this idea and assigned Rev. Fr. Francis Hsu (later Bishop of Hong Kong) and Rev. Fr. Joseph Carra to look into the matter. Several enthusiastic Catholic laymen began to hold regular meetings in 1960 and the Serra Club of Hong Kong was chartered by Past International President Ralph W. Hauenstein on 25th February 1963, who also presented our club with its Serra bell. Over the past 50 years, the club faced many ups and downs, periods of growth and attrition, times of joy and gloom - but somehow, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it persevered to fulfill its mission. Now in 2013, the club is still growing and working hard towards our mission of promoting priestly and religious vocations.

I. 1961-1969: the Formative Years

The club held its first meeting at Serra Lipton Chuang's residence in 1961. The seven Founder Members (the Magnificent Seven), selected by our chaplains were:-
1) Edward Chan
2) Robert Choa
3) Lipton Chuang
4) Eugene Li
5) Rupert Li
6) Martin Quincey Wong
7) Patrick Yu

The early meetings were very formal affairs and discussions and minutes were all in English. Various activities were tried - parish visits, preaching by Serrans at Sunday Masses, retreats and large scale annual events, etc. Throughout this period, the strong guiding hands of our dominant founder members were ever present - a friendly nudge or a short pep talk was enough to tide the club over any disagreement. Many general meetings were held at Serrans' homes, and Serrans and their families were very close to one another. Lipton Chuang, Eugene Li and Patrick Yu played an influential and pivotal role during these formative years, and Peter Lo donated much time and energy as the Executive Officer of the Club.

II. 1970-1986: Growing Phase

The political disturbances of 1967 caused many Serrans to emigrate with their families. The ranks of the Serra Club of Hong Kong were decimated. Our club was rebuilt with "second generation" recruits, who came into per sonal contact with our founder and char ter member s and were greatly motivated by them. Eugene Li and Uncle Peter Lo and his good lady Auntie Grace played an impor tant role in promoting a friendly atmosphere for our new members at general meetings and social functions. The annual Chinese New Year social gathering at Lipton Chuang's palatial residence was the highlight of our social calendar.

During this period, Hong Kong witnessed the installation of three Chinese bishops in succession over a very short period of time. The most notable annual events of our club were: "The Religious Sounds of the 70's" in 1971, the "Students' Day" and "Preaching on Vocation Sunday" were all undertaken by Serrans with great success. The Serrans also began making regular visits to the Holy Spirit Seminary and gave professional talks to the seminarians and to various Catholic secondary students.

One significant development during this period was our regular visits to the Holy Spirit Seminary and the then seminarians that we knew were later Vicar Generals and senior parish priests in the diocese. The friendship built up over the past 40 odd years facilitated our club's activities greatly. Another notable development was the establishment of the Diocesan Vocations Commission, which has became our close partner in many religious vocation activities,

Significant contributions were made by Serrans Godwin Chan, Lucas Chan, Colin Fok, Michael Lau, Patrick Sham, David Lee, Richard Tan, and David Wong – almost all second generation Serrans.

III. 1986-2000: The Maturing Phase

This period began when Serran Augustine Chong became President in 1986. The key office bearers during this phase came from our "third generation" members - members who were not exposed to the drive and dynamism of our dominant founder members, members who were not in the habit of reminiscing "the good old times", but nevertheless, gave new directions and organized new ventures for the Club.

In 1986, Serra International approved the admission of women as Serran members. About fifteen years later, we began to admit women members to our club. During this period, our Club and the Diocesan Vocations Commission began to coordinate our effor ts and held joint function and live-in camps. The Catholic Students' Day and the live-in camps complemented each other and became our main contact with youths. Serran Gregory Chan made history when be became our longest serving president from 1990-1993; Serran Ignatius Lee put in heroic efforts in per sonally contacting all those boys and girls who par ticipated in our Catholic Students' Day, putting in 2-3 hour s of telephone time every day throughout the year. Our club also re-established personal contact with the Hong Kong Diocese Altar Servers' Association and sponsored their annual functions. Our club owed much to the hard work of Augustine Chong, Gregory Chan, Vincent Jim, Ignatius Lee and Benny Mok during this maturing phase. Mention must also be made of Josephine Kam, secretary of Gregory, who though not a Serran, took special interest in our work and contributed a great deal.

IV. 2000-2007; Consolidation and Expansion

In this period the Serra Club of Hong Kong worked closely with the Diocesan Vocations Commission. However, we had difficulties reaching the grassroots at the individual parish and school level.

The Serra International Great Jubilee Millennium Pilgrimage provided great impetus to our members. Many Serrans from our club participated in this momentous event and brought back the Holy Father's message that we hold Holy Hour Prayers for priestly and religious Vocation every first Thursday of each month. This became the Holy Grail of Serrans Vincent Jim (and Lady Maria), Albert Li, Thomas Wong and Peter So. Many of our members are also members of the choir of St. Margaret's Parish Church, and they or ganized themselves into a Vocation Promotion Task Force with the consent and encouragement of their Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Joseph Yim, who had been a good friend of our club since his seminarian days some 30 odd years ago.

On Feb. 3, 2002, we organized a most enjoyable visit to the Holy Spirit Seminary for 70 altar servers. Our club would continue to strive to organize large-scale half-day activities for the altar servers through the Hong Kong Diocese Altar Servers' Association.

V. 2007–2012: New Directions —New Prospects

In 2007 Serran Winnie Yau became our first lady president and our club took on a warm glow due to a woman's gentle touch. The great publicity stunt of the year was the "Mothers' Day for Nuns" on the first day of May. This was a very successful event among the nuns. President Winnie Yau invested much time and energy into this event—she gave it her whole self and her soul.

In 2009, Serran Leslie Hung became our second lady president and served two terms. By this time, the Catholic students became a very small minority in all Catholic secondary schools. Our annual "Catholic Students' Day" in essence became " Catholic Secondary Schools' Day". With the advice and assistance of Mr. James Mak and the Augustine Drama Group, our club enlivened this annual event with dramatic skits promoting priestly and religious vocation in a subliminal manner.

During the 2009- 2010 annual Bishop's luncheon, our new diocesan bishop (Bishop, now Cardinal) recommended that our club should concentrate its effor ts on working with the altar servers, the source of most of our priestly and religious vocations. Acting upon his advice, Serran Desmond Cheng and the Hong Kong Diocese Altar Servers Association to organized regular basketball and football matches among teams of Altar ser vers from different parishes in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories. In each competition, there were also a team of seminarians and a team of Serrans and friends. Our Lord once invited John and Andrew to "come and see", so this obviously was a good oppor tunity for the Altar Servers to mix with the seminarians, and "come and see" the seminary.

Another piece of delightful news was that the grandson of one of our senior members (Dr. George Yeung and Dr. Cissy Wong) was ordained a priest in the U.S.A. into the community of the Legionaires of Christ. He joined the seminary after graduating from the Faculty of Medicine with a M.D. degree.

At the Serra International Convention in July 2011, Dr. Thomas Wong from the Serra Club of Hong Kong, was elected the 68th Serra International President. He was the first Chinese elected into this office.

In October 2011, Serrans Denis Chang, Peter Lee and Thomas A. Wong were invested as "Knights of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, a knighthood bestowed on lay person with significant contribution to the Universal Church for "Defending the Faith and Helping the Poor". This was a great honour for our club.

Also, mention must be made of the ongoing unique programme between the Holy Spirit Seminary and the Serra Club of Hong Kong: "the Seminarian Serr an Mentee-Mentor Programme". Every seminar ian from the Holy Spirit Seminary was paired up with two Serrans. They made frequent contacts and shared social evenings on a regular basis. Our Serran members feel that we are getting more out of this programme than what we put in.

VI. 2013 onwards: New Challenges: New Goals

Looking into the future, our club must aim to achieve the following goals:
(i) Recruit new young members---- like most Serra Clubs world-wide, our members are ageing. It is our utmost priority to recruit young, energetic and dedicated Serrans. Much has been accomplished, but much more still needs to be done.
(ii) Continue our liaison with the Hong Kong Diocese Altar Servers' Association and sponsor their activities. On all suitable occasions, arrange for the seminarians to par ticipate so that the altar servers are exposed to the way the seminarians prepare for their priestly vocations.
(iii) Fulfill our commitment to constant, unwavering prayers for priestly and religious vocations. As the Blessed Pope John Paul II said in his millennium address to Serrans on December 7, 2000 in St. Peter's Bascilica, "Prayer moves the heart of God. It is the powerful key to resolving the vocations question". We must trust Our Lord will send more labourers into His vineyard.

"Lets us, then, be up and doing (praying). With a Heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait".

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