Young people need peer group for their growth, in the group, they confirm each other’s identity, with the support from the group, they built up their confidence and self-esteem. They learn how to cooperate with others and to respect others’ ideas. The bond of the peer group can be so strong it will last for life. The relationship built in the group often serves as mutual support for each other, especially during difficulties in life. The unity in the group can generate magnetic effect on those around, drawing them into the group. Let me illustrate the above phenomenon with my own experience in the parish – St. Lawrence Church.
After organizing activities for the parish for some time, we, those who always worked together felt the urge to be more united and to support each other so as to give better service to the parishioners. Of course another reason was that we found energy and joy in working together,
we became familiar and our friendship had grown. It was after we finished going on a cruise trip for the parishioners when someone suggested to form a group together. Nothing had been planned on how the group would be, the idea was to be together. I heard the idea from one of them, but when I knew there would be more boys in the group with only one girl (with me would be two), I hesitated. Because I was planning to enter into religious life, being always together with a big group of boys did not sound comfortable for me. Not able to resist the sincere invitation of the only girl willing to form the group, I accepted with the condition that we had to make the group a little spiritual than just being happy together.
We started seriously with meetings to see how to form the group, finally we came up with several points: the aim of the group was to be united so as to serve better the parishioners, we also encouraged each other for personal and spiritual growth. We would not form an association but to be a group of brothers and sisters in Christ, as we foresaw to form a new association needed to have the permission from the parish priest and it might entail difficulty. We consulted Fr. Mark Chen, he agreed with us with his support. He also reminded us not to make the group popular in the parish, otherwise the parish priest might interfere. We went off happily with his advice and planned to set up the group in detail.
We started with its naming, since we were nine forming the group (2 girls and 7 boys), we wanted to call ourselves the ‘Big Nine’. We found the name a bit haughty, after a long discussion, we took the name the ‘Nine Idiots’, bearing in mind that we would became idiots for Christ, like St. Francis of Assisi. Since we would become sisters and brothers, we ranked ourselves according to our age. Guess what , I became the BIG Sister (the eldest), I am still called by this lovely name! We also promised to try our best to support each other in our growth: often we prayed the Rosary together and shared about our daily life and feelings, we even had fraternal correction from time to time! We planned together how to give better service to the parish, we also gave suggestions to the parish priest.
Though we did not say anything about our group in the parish, the parish priest was alerted in seeing the group coming so close. I was summoned to explain to him what was happening. I got scared, I went with two other members to seek advice from Fr. Mark Chen. He told us to assure the parish priest that the group was of good will to give service to the parish and we would not make it publicly known or do anything harmful. That was the suffering we had to endure for the growth of the group. Other young people were curious in seeing us gathering together, some of them were interested and asked to join us, some of them even brought their friends in. At the end we got twenty-one members altogether, that happened after I had entered religious life in 1970. The group rearranged the ranking, I remained as the BIG Sister!! That is why the name lasted until now.
Time flew, the twenty-one idiots grew into adulthood, some had gone abroad for study or work, others remained in Hong Kong to work and still gave service in the same parish. Henry Woo became a Franciscan Friar, I carried out the FMM mission in wherever assigned. Though scattered in different places and working in different field, all kept the same spirit and zeal. Some members set up similar groups in their own places. The ’21 Idiots’ has existed 48 years, from time to time, those abroad would come back to Hong Kong to visit the others, often the members brought their partners or children, or even came with the whole family for gatherings! Now it is time to think about the golden jubilee of our foundation, to come together in joy, to thank God for putting us together, to support each other on our way of growth. God has graced us to form friendship that lasts, from which we tasted the infinite love of God, our loving father!
(to be continued)