The religious order known as the “Missionaries of the Poor” (MOP) was founded by Father Richard Ho Lung, a Catholic priest, in 1981, in Kingston, Jamaica.
Fr. Richard Ho Lung is a Jamaican, born to Chinese parents on September 17, 1939 in Richmond, St Mary. His father and mother were born in Hong Kong, but came over to Jamaica as immigrants. 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.
He was educated by the Franciscan sisters in Kingston and then by the Jesuits at St George’s College. After completing his studies at St. George’s, on August 15, 1959, he joined the Society of Jesus, the most respected of religious orders and certainly the most intellectually acclaimed in the Roman Catholic Church. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 4, 1971 and diligently studied, earning Master’s degrees in Philosophy, English Literature and Theology, along with a Licentiate in Theology and a Doctorate in Humanities. He taught at St. George’s College, at the University of the West Indies and at Boston College in the USA.
It was during his tenure as assistant parish priest at the Aquinas Center (1972-1980) that spiritual awakening occurred . He recalls that time, saying, “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 felt the call to respond more radically to the Gospel challenge. Surrounded by desperate poverty in Kingston where the poor suffered greatly, he had a strong sense that God was calling him to respond to their cry and to be with them in their suffering. He was reluctant to take up the challenge but he knew he must obey God’s command. In 1980, Father Ho Lung made the difficult decision of leaving the Society of Jesus, which he loved, and founded a religious community of men who dedicated their lives to the service of the rejected and the destitute.
In July 19, 1981, Fr. Richard Ho Lung started the Brothers of the Poor (BOP). Hayden Augustine, Gregory Ramkissoon, and Brian Kerr were the first to join Fr. Ho Lung, sharing his vision of dedicating their lives for the poor. Together they set about the task of sharing and relying only on God’s love. At that time they were busily engaged in apostolic works. They reached out to the very poor in the slums in the ghettoes of Kingston, serving the neediest people, the most forgotten and abandoned of peoples. They provided Kingston with a voice of justice, a voice of peace, a voice for conversion within the Christian community in Jamaica.
On March 26, 1982, Fr. Ho Lung and the Brothers passed a letter to the Most Reverend Samuel E. Carter, formally requesting approval that the Brothers of the Poor be recognized as a Pious Union, and on April 20, 1982 this request was approved according to the Canon 708 of the then Code of Canon Law.