…As I got to know the couple he began to share his story with me and now I share it with you.
“…Through the early thirties, years of the Great Depression, Bibby [his mother] worked hard to bring up Anthony [who was born whilst she lived in South Africa in her native England]. She brought him up in the Anglican faith sending him to Sunday School at an early age. Anthony later attended a Protestant church and sang in the choir for a number of years. He grew up and started to make his way in the world. He was conscripted into the R.A.F. For two years, and afterwards commenced a career in a bank. He gave up his faith and turned his back on God.
HE GAVE UP HIS FAITH AND TURNED HIS BACK ON GOD
His employers sent him overseas to Hong Kong on a four-year contract. At the end of this he travelled back to England and spent a few months with his mother who was working as a civil servant. In Hong Kong he had become attached to a local girl and they had made plans to start a business together. Thus he resigned his job and returned to Hong Kong, where he took up permanent residence.
THE BUSINESS PROSPERED AND HE WAS ABLE TO BUY A HOUSE FOR HIS MOTHER
After ten years he prospered and was able to make regular annual visits to England to see his mother and eventually to buy her a house for her retirement. Bibby enjoyed a happy and active retirement. In 1994 she passed away at the age of 91. Sadly, Anthony’s wife passed away three years later succumbing to cancer.
A SURPRISING DISCOVERY
Anthony was lucky enough to meet a young [Buddhist] lady, half his age, whom he married two years later. He had retired by now and they lived happily in their home in Shek O, on the island of Hong Kong. But Anthony was still living without religious faith. However after his mother had passed away, on going through her papers, he found a certificate of Baptism issued by the Roman Catholic Church in a Diocese in South Africa. This indicated that Claude [Anthony’s late father] must have been a Catholic because he had his son baptised. In Shek O there is a Catholic Church looked after by two Columban Sisters. Anthony and his wife walk early in the mornings and most mornings meet one of the Sisters who has become a dear friend.
BECAUSE HE COULD NOT PRAY, HE ASKED THE NUN TO PRAY FOR HIS WIFE
In October of 2012 Anthony’s wife had to enter hospital for a long-postponed operation. For the first time in his life Anthony was afraid. Should he lose her he would be completely alone in the world. The day before the operation he met the Sister and asked her to pray for his wife. He told her he could not pray.
UPON THIS, HE WAS SENT A SIGN FROM GOD
The next day when Anthony returned to his house he went to his verandah to perform his usual exercises. In the midst of his exercises he looked ahead and suddenly there was a light above him which lasted about 30 seconds. Anthony was convinced this was a sign, a revelation, a message from God. From that moment he knew he would never be alone, that the Lord would always be with him. His faith returned. He could pray again. It was now time to return to God’s house.
IT WAS NOW TIME TO RETURN TO GOD’S HOUSE
On the first Sunday of December he walked up the hill to the Church where Sister introduced him to the visiting priest. In private Father Wurth heard his confession and gave him the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Anthony then went to his very first Mass and received his First Holy Communion. Before Communion and during the sermon the priest said there was news to celebrate, ‘A new member of the Congregation, Anthony, has been lost for eighty years but St Anthony has found him and brought him back.’ Praise the Lord.
MUCH REJOICING IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH
There was a great sense of celebration and excitement in our Chapel that morning as the community welcomed Anthony. Anthony’s wife was also very happy… she had hoped he would find his own religion. Anthony’s quiet space for prayer has a crucifix and a small icon. His wife spends time in meditation before a statue of Buddha.
SEEDS OF FAITH IN THE HEART
An orchid blooming outside our house reminds me of Anthony’s story. It has survived the storms of winter, the typhoons, the monsoon rains, and is now in full bloom this Spring. It has survived because the roots are tightly knit around a tree. Like Anthony, the seeds of faith sewn in his heart some eighty years ago have survived and are now blooming in New Life and Resurrection.”
– This article by Sr Isobel Loughrey was published in “Far East” (Magazine of the Columban Missionaries), issue January/February 2014. For information, subscriptions, vocations and donations please visit http://www.columbans.co.uk (external link) or http://www.columbansisters.org (external link).