Missionaries are unsung heroes

Cayman supporters to raise funds

Imagine for a moment a group of unsung heroes who offer their service not just for a few months or simply for self-fulfillment, but day-in and day-out in the poorest countries of the world, unselfishly and lovingly; a community of brothers who dedicate their lives, without pay, to help house, feed and care for people in India, Kenya, Uganda, Philippines, Indonesia, and closer to home, Haiti, Jamaica and the United States. These unsung heroes are the Missionaries of the Poor.

It is in this spirit that Missionaries of the Poor Associates in Cayman have decided to organise their second annual fundraising dinner to help raise funds for Missionaries of the Poor initiatives. More specifically, funds raised will go toward Missionaries of the Poor’s current projects closer to home, including helping to feed and shelter Haitian earthquake victims; building a shelter for young mothers and their babies in Kingston, Jamaica; and purchasing and renovating a building to be a distribution centre for food and clothing, and doubling up as accommodation for visitors and volunteers who help the brothers care for the poor.

Austere life

To say the brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor live simply is an understatement – they own nothing, hold no personal bank accounts, do not watch TV or listen to radio, and abstain from alcohol and tobacco. They sleep on bunk beds in dormitories; they study, work and travel in the community. They pray – and pray some more. At 5.45am, while most people are still sound asleep, the brothers are already up praying and the last of their prayers do not end until after 9pm.

Missionaries of the Poor was founded in 1981 by Father Richard Ho Lung, a Catholic priest, in Kingston, Jamaica. Born in 1939 to Chinese Buddhists who immigrated to Jamaica, his family was so poor that as a child he remembers one small cup of rice being passed around for dinner to be shared by him, his parents and his two sisters and brother. His father asked him to promise that he would always care for the poor people of Jamaica, as they had looked after the Ho Lung family when they arrived from China.

In 1959, he joined the Society of Jesus, the most respected of religious orders. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1971.

It was during his tenure as an assistant parish priest that he had a spiritual awakening. “I felt that everything that I had done up until that time had been somehow hypocritical. I was preaching the word of God but not really living it,” he recalls. And so began the beginnings of the organisation; its first incarnation was simply called Brothers of the Poor, and initially consisted of just four brothers who reached out to the poor people in the slums and ghettoes of Kingston; they served the most needy, forgotten and abandoned.

The brothers began their work in a government-run house for the homeless, destitute and aged; then they continued their work with prisoners, where they helped to bring to light the need for rehabilitation among those incarcerated.

More than 550 brothers

Since its founding, Missionaries of the Poor have received both papal and Episcopal approval for their work and constitutions, and today the order has over 550 brothers serving in nine missions around the world including Africa, Central America, North America, the West Indies and Asia. One of their central objectives is to build a sense of community among the poor by gathering them together as a family, so that relationships are forged within the wider society.

According to Father Ho Lung, “the poor possess a joy that is pure and highly contagious; it doesn’t come from material comfort and prosperity, but from the very gift of being alive each day. The call to serve the poor is an invitation to happiness,” he continues,

Their services include hands-on care of the destitute homeless, orphans, elderly and sick in care centres, where they provide food and drink, clothing, shelter and basic medical care. In addition to these works of mercy, they provide spiritual care such as worship in song for residents, and spiritual retreats for visitors.

Fundraiser in Cayman

The Carnival-themed event in Cayman will be held on 5 March at Loyola Hall’s Courtyard at St. Ignatius. There will be a champagne reception, dinner, entertainment, including a performance by Vivendi, and silent and live auction. Tickets cost $100 per person or $850 per table of 10. Corporate tables cost $1,000.

Fiona Pimentel, who is spearheading the dinner, says she is very excited about the event. “It is inspiring to see how generous people are with their time and donations,” she said. “The Missionaries of the Poor do amazing work all year round, so it is wonderful to be able to help them like this.”

To learn more about Missionaries of the Poor visit: 
www.missionariesofthepoor.org


For more information about the 5 March event, contact Fiona Pimentel at [email protected] or visit Petique for tickets.