“THE MISSIONARIES OF THE POOR”
The Brothers of the Poor continued to grow and expand both locally and overseas. Fr. Ho Lung had begun with a small band of four men drawn from Trinidad and Jamaica, but by mid-1980s Brothers were being added from other Caribbean countries such as St. Lucia, Belize, and Haiti. In 1986, the Brothers of the Poor developed a world-wide presence with the admission of Brothers from India. At that time, the First Novitiate was formed. All along the way, they received clear affirmations from God that He wanted this religious community of men totally dedicated to Him and His poor.
On October 20, 1992, the Brothers of the Poor adopted the new name of “The Missionaries of the Poor”. In August 1993, Pope John Paul II visited Jamaica. During his visit, he unexpectedly met the Missionaries of the Poor and invited Fr. Richard Ho Lung to the altar of the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Holy Father walked hand-in-hand with Father Ho Lung at the conclusion of the Mass–giving the Missionaries of the Poor a most wonderful sign of support.
On October 7, 1997 the Congregation for the Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome granted consent for the elevation of the Missionaries of the Poor as a religious institute of diocesan right and approved their constitution. On March 25, 1998, Missionaries of the Poor became the first, and so far the only, religious community of men founded in the English speaking Caribbean to be formally elevated to a Religious Institute of Diocesan Right.
In March 2006, the Missionaries of the Poor celebrated their “Silver Jubilee”–25 years of Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross. The event was celebrated with a laity conference, the profession of vows of 20 new Brothers, and the ordination of four Brothers to the priesthood. Mass was celebrated with bishops visiting from other countries where MOP overseas missions were located. These included Bishop Thumma Bala from Warangal, India, Bishop Hubert Constant from Cap-Haitien, Haiti, Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi from Naga City, Philippines and Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala from Kampala, Uganda.
Today, there are well over 500 Brothers, living and serving the poor in Jamaica, Haiti, India, Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia and the United States. The Missionaries, young brothers and priests, are truly a delight and a taste of heaven itself. They are young, yet they abandon themselves to Christ totally. Loyally, they live according to strict rules that protect them from the evil of the materialistic self-seeking world. They freely take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, along with a fourth vow of free service to the least of our brothers and sisters. They promote their way of life with their exuberance as they embrace the full ambience of suffering which is experienced by the homeless and destitute. Their motto rightly describes their work:
“Servitium Dulce cum Christo Crucifixo
Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross”
Today, the Missionaries of the Poor occupy a number of well-used facilities. This was not always so. In November 1981, Archbishop Samuel E. Carter gave the Brothers permission to use a house on 25 Munroe Road in Kingston. However, the Brothers’ first house was in a woman’s home! Mrs. Muriel Crichton gave the B rothers the use of one of the rooms of her home until, in November of 1981, they moved to the house at 25 Munroe Road where they lived for nine years.
The Brothers lived in dependence to God’s Providence through the kindness and generosity of friends. At the beginning they faced struggles with financial support because they had no money. Fr. Ho Lung got a little salary, but it was nothing compared to what was needed for their lives. One of their first benefactors was Ferdie Mahfood, who started Food for the Poor. Food for the Poor was started under the inspiration of Fr. Ho Lung because Fr. Ho Lung took Ferdie Mahfood to Eventide Home to introduce him to the poverty there. Ferdie Mahfood was so moved by the experience, that he decided to start Food for the Poor. They also began getting left-over food from a Chinese restaurant called Mee-Mee’s up the road from where they lived–that’s how simply they lived. The Lord continued, however, to raise up benefactors, as June Chin started coming, then Phyllis Chen and others.
In 1991, as the number of the Brothers of the Poor and their apostolic continued to increase, they thought of finding a more suitable house or headquarters, which would be close to the homes they had opened in downtown Kingston. A house was obtained at 3 North Street, downtown Kingston, to serve as their headquarters and chapel. It was named Corpus Christ Monastery. Since then, many new members have been added to the Brothers of the Poor from India, Central America, the USA, the Caribbean, the Philippines, Haiti and Uganda and Corpus Christi Monastery has served as the formation house for more than 70 novices.
In April 1999, the Missionaries of the Poor opened Prince of Peace Monastery, a juniorate home for the formation of the Brothers who joined the Institute. It has since become the seniorate house for over 30 perpetually professed Brothers.