by Sandra Crashley
We were in Hong Kong just [a few] weeks ago and spent a day in the same street where so many residents are now staging a sit in.

Filipina maids play cards in Statue Square in Hong Kong.

We have seen many crowds of a different sort in Hong Kong where we have often had a stopover on our journey to Europe. The first time was a Sunday in the main bus station. As we got off the bus, the volume of noise from that crowd was deafening. At first we could not see where the noise was coming from, but we turned a corner and there were hundreds of young women sitting on newspapers or cardboard enjoying one another’s company. They were laughing and happy, and I immediately knew where they were from.
We met many of them last year, too, when we not only went to Europe but to Brazil via the States. Everywhere we went they were there, but not in crowds as we witnessed in Hong Kong. They were mostly caring for little children or the elderly in their inimitable way, because they are the kindest of young women, always so concerned for others.
We have even met them in their own country of origin, because these young women are from the Philippines, and we were also there last year. It is the reason I began to chat to any Filipino girl I met as we travelled. On the whole they love to stop and talk, particularly about home and as I am in a wheelchair I immediately get a happy response.
It was in Manila that we discovered that these women, who are working as the servants all over the world, do not keep the meagre wages they earn for themselves but send it back to support their parents and families
in the Philippines. How wonderfully selfless that is.
[Then] we saw another crowd of young women from the Philippines in Connaught St in Hong Kong. It was Saturday afternoon and we knew we could go to Mass at 4.30, as we had done several times before in the Catholic Centre. We almost missed the building because of that crowd of young women.
Between 200-300 Filipinos were crowded in an orderly fashion just outside the doorway of the Catholic Centre and, because of that, we almost missed the building. When we asked where the Catholic Mass was they told us it was inside, and to one accord insisted that we should go first in the lift. One girl in the crowd leant forward and put a small disc into my husband’s hand.
In all our 40 years of travelling we have never witnessed people queu- ing in large numbers to get into Mass — queuing to see the pope, yes, but
not to keep their Sunday duty of getting to Mass.
When we arrived on the fourth floor my husband was asked for that disc — it was his ticket for a seat. Since our visit last year the Hong Kong Authorities have stopped the Catholic Centre from allowing people to stand at the back during Mass. So a number of chairs have been authorised in that upper room and everyone at Mass must be seated. Hence the need for a disc,and one young woman queuing outside had given my husband hers!
The priest was also a Filipino. He announced the importance that day of the national Catholic festival in their Philippine islands of the Feast Day Santa Cruz — the Holy Cross. In his sermon, the priest addressed that room filled with those servant girls and at one point likened the roughness of the cross to the roughness of their hands from all the housework they continued to do. And, like Jesus, they were doing that work in love for the benefit of others, not only for their families but also those they served. At one point I was in tears as I realised that I was sitting in a room full of young saints, working hard to care for their loved ones at home who lived in poverty.
Mike and I had sat at the back. I had no need for a disc because of my wheel- chair! As the Mass concluded, those girls began to insist that we should go first in the lift — only 14 allowed at a time! I firmly said that I would go last, I was determined to serve those servants and, as they filed past me, I kept telling them how beautiful they were with ser- vant hearts just like Jesus. I also said that I had met other Filipino girls all over the world and that they were part of God’s plan to evangelise the world. They were laughing and happy as they left that building.
Today as I write I am concerned for those young women in Hong Kong who faithfully queue to get into Mass every Saturday, because that is their one day off, and going to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the highlight of their week.But today another crowd with a different agenda is sitting in Connaught St in Hong Kong, and the police may stop the attendance at Mass this Saturday. One thing I do know is that those Fili- pino young women, those simple saints with servant hearts, will be praying.
• Retirees Mike and Sandra Crashley are catechists for Gisborne parish children’s sacramental formation. Annual travels include three World Youth Days to witness to youth that their marriage has lasted for 48 years.