Serving the young as a printer, musician, scholar, poet, teacher,
catechist, author, and librarian.
Hong Kong, China, 24 October 2023 -- On the 10th day of the 10th month, at about 10 o'clock at night, 95-year-old Br. Emanuel Kong Kwong Kuen S.D.B. died of COVID-19 in Hong Kong's Eastern Hospital. The Salesian confreres who saw him on his deathbed thought they were seeing an old man sleeping peacefully after a day of active service. They would not have been surprised if he had opened his eyes or his mouth again. Br. Emanuel had entered the hospital just one month before. Before going to the hospital, he had been sitting in his Library office as he had done for the last thirty years, day in and day out. In fact, Br. Emanuel, after being for forty years a full-time teacher in Salesian schools in Hong Kong and Macau for the last thirty years of his life, had been the librarian of the Salesian Provincial Library in Shau Kei Wan.
These full-time tasks, however, were not enough to sap Br. Emanuel's energy for service. From 1990 to 2007, he was the editor of the Provincial Newsletter. In the last issue edited by him (July-August 2007), he thanked the confreres (especially those who contributed articles) and the lay collaborators of the printing press for helping him, for 17 years, to “punctually publish each issue.” What an achievement! The uninterrupted and punctual publication of more than 100 numbers of the Provincial Newsletter! Naturally, everything worthwhile has a price. In our case, the price paid by Br. Kung was a daily life marked by self-discipline and self-sacrifice, evidence of a great love for Jesus and the Church, for Don Bosco and the Congregation, and for the Province.
In one instance, Br. Kung was so sick that he had to be hospitalized. This happened towards the end of the month, just around the fatidic deadline of the 28th, when the proofs had to be returned to the printer. Worried about the imminent date of issue of the Newsletter, Br. Kung asked permission from the doctor to leave his hospital bed and return to his editorial desk. Once the proofs were in the hand of the printer, Br. Kung went back to the hospital. Who knows how many similar stories Br. Kung could tell us?
The 100 and more issues of the Newsletter bear witness to the resourcefulness of his 17-year stint as editor. Every time the material offered by his correspondents proved too scarce, he would make do with one or two pages of personal reflections on various aspects of Salesian life. Somehow, he was very apt at this. Br. Kung had already to his credit two publications of this kind. In 2000, he published the articles he had contributed to the Chinese Salesian Bulletin on various aspects of human, Christian, and Salesian life. This was followed in 2005 by a second volume, after which the Don Bosco Publishing Services kept publishing his literary, educational, and pastoral reflections. His reflections were the fruit of a totally dedicated educational and pastoral life at the service of the young and of the confreres. Into it, Br. Emanuel poured all his uncommon technical, literary and musical talents.
We may conclude with a challenging word that this veteran Brother perhaps would like to say to his priest confreres. Before coming to Shau Kei Wan in 1994, he had been the first lay brother in the history of the Province to take up the task of Prefect of Religious Education (once called Catechist). He did so from 1988 to 1994 at Tang King Po School. Once, when asked whether he met any difficulty in doing the work of a Catechist, he answered: "The only difficulty is to find priests to celebrate Mass and to hear confessions."