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Non-Jesuit head for Apostleship of Prayer

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : In a seeming departure from custom, a non-Jesuit has been named as the new national director of the Apostleship of Prayer for Hong Kong and Macau.

At the celebrations of the 168th anniversary of the foundation of the worldwide prayer movement for the support of the mission of the Church held at Wah Yan college in Wan Chai on December 2 last year, the outgoing director, Jesuit Father Jim Hurley, announced that at 85-years-of-age he is stepping down from the job and that his place will be taken by Father Dondon Rollon, from the Missionary Society of the Divine Word.

Father Rollon said that he was a bit taken-aback when he was asked to take on the position, partly because he wondered if he had the time to fulfill the obligations it brings with it and partly because he is not a Jesuit.

Nevertheless, new times and situations bring new solutions and with few Jesuits in the two territories at present, a departure from custom was necessary.

The Apostleship of Prayer goes back over 150 years, beginning in France in 1844, when a Father Francis Xavier Gautrelet told a group of Jesuit seminarians who had expressed an eagerness to go overseas as missionaries, “Be apostles now, apostles of prayer!”

Father Gautrelet told the would-be missionaries, “Offer everything you are doing each day in union with the Heart of Our Lord for what he wishes, the spread of the kingdom for the salvation of souls.”

The idea caught on and today it is estimated that over 50 million people worldwide pray the pope’s intention for the mission of the Church every day. And they are not only Jesuits, but people from all walks of life, as well as priests, sisters and brothers from almost every religious community in the Church.

However, the appointment of a non-Jesuit to the role of national director in Hong Kong and Macau is not so surprising, as it is a Jesuit movement more in public perception than in reality.

The director-general delegate to the worldwide movement, Father Claudio Barriga Domìguez, told the Sunday Examiner in November 2009 that in fact it is a papal thing, as long ago popes began writing monthly prayer intentions for mission with an eye to the Apostleship of Prayer Movement.

“Truly, the Apostleship of Prayer is the pope’s own prayer group,” he said, explaining that the pope entrusts the management and promotion of the initiative to the Jesuits. “But the intentions are the pope’s own intentions for each day and each month,” the Chilean Jesuit said.

He pointed out that Pope John Paul II even called it the pope’s own prayer group, calling it a precious treasure from the pope’s heart and the heart of Christ.”

Father Barriga described it as a way of offering the day to God. “It is a way of offering my day to God,” he says. “It is a way to sanctify daily life.”

He explained that it is ideal for busy people who have to work, look after children and do the million other things that are part of everyday life in a modern city.

“If it begins with a morning offering of dedication, just to remind ourselves of God’s presence in our lives, and perhaps finishes with a short round up of the day at night, we can check what happened to us each day. Look for where God was present,” he explained.

The special intention for January this year was Christian people who are suffering from persecution in the Middle East and people all over the world have offered prayer for them through their dedication to the Apostleship of Prayer.

Father Hurley said that seven parishes and four schools in Hong Kong are promoting the movement as a way of practical spirituality for the busy life that people live.

He added that people in the prison ministry are also considering how to use it in their work and the movement is also looking to China, as it is a simple method that people in a Church that has a hard time sustaining a public face can use to keep in touch with God.

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