Father Richard Ho Lung was associate pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Papine, Jamaica, when he ventured into the depressed community of Mona Commons and listened and shared the struggles of the people. Father Ho Lung encountered a fundamental problem: the absence or lack of family life and a sense of community. Thus, when the “Brothers of the Poor” was founded in 1981, one of the main objectives was to build family and community among the poor and disadvantaged. These objectives were to be pursued in two ways: first, by building a community of men–religious brothers and priests–who would live in community, share all things in common, follow a common spirituality and charism with a common ministry of service to the least in society; second, by bringing together the poor (especially the destitute homeless) as a family and forging community relationships with the wider society.
Initially consisting of only four members, the Brothers of the Poor were approved by the bishop of Kingston, Jamaica and the name changed to the “Missionaries of the Poor”. The brothers began their work in a government-run house for the homeless destitute and aged, where they succeeded in opening the consciousness of the public to the needs and struggles of the poor. They continued their work with prisoners, where they helped to bring to light the need for rehabilitation among prisoners, not mere isolation. The community thus began with two successful projects in its early years. Since its founding, the Missionaries of the Poor have received both papal and episcopal approval for their work and constitutions. Today, the order has over 550 brothers serving in nine missions around the world.