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Friday, August 07 2015 04:40
Ah! Jamaica.

            In mid-February my wife Susan and I spent ten days on this beautiful island.  We did so, not to avoid the then piling snows and bitter winds of Greater Boston, but rather to accept a personal invitation.                        

             It came from Rosie, Susan’s long-time friend from college days. A superlative hostess, Rosie welcomed us to her home in Kingston, within the house where she was born and grew up.

            Early in our departure for the island, weather problems in our home region had made us apprehensive about reaching our destination. We feared one of our assigned plane might not take off from Logan.

            However, it did leave nearly on time, much to our satisfaction.  What also pleased me about boarding was the current practice of airlines in providing mobile chairs for passengers who need help.

             People like me, who walk with difficulty because of arthritis in one of my knees, can now cope with the long and hard corridors in the gate areas. On at least one occasion, being wheeled fast could have prevented me from missing a crucial flight.

            While enjoying Rosie’s home inside, we also admired the beautiful grounds and flowers of her landscape, a site near the relatively new American Embassy. In the near distance, we also looked up to the splendor of the Blue Mountains. For two days and nights we stayed in a charming inn on those heights that provided long distance views of the region below.           

            Rosie also introduced us to quite a few of her close friends. One such gathering took pace in a boat ride that took us into Kingston harbor.  There we chattered with these friends, lunched together, and watched some of them go swimming near a small lagoon.

             Noting Boston’s contrast with their own terrain, virtually every one of these Jamaicans commented on what they knew about the startling weather upheavals then taking place daily in the Boston area. 

            Living briefly In Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston, we came in contact with people in much more difficulty. Rosie had arranged for us to meet Father Richard Ho Lung, a priest well known in Jamaica for helping the poor.

            He grew up close to Kingston, the son of Chinese parents who had precious little money for his upbringing.  When he applied for entrance to the Jesuit high school, he had to be taken free of charge.

            Later on, he himself became a Jesuit priest and studied in the Boston area. In those days I was acquainted with him, especially because he became known for being a composer of popular religious songs and a singer of them too. He is still known in Jamaica and other places around the world for his music.

            But Father Ho Long, now 75, is also famous for rescuing the poor. In fact, to make that possible he founded a religious order named Missionaries of the Poor. This group of several hundred brothers and a few priests from various countries, does work that my friends and I find very impressive.

            What they do for deeply hurting children especially touched us.  We saw those boys and girls in their cribs, often unable to help themselves at all. Some of them reached out to us, and we to them but their dire need almost overwhelmed us with pity. 

            Father Ho lung, appears as a deeply spiritual man, one for whom his faith motivates his work for the poor.  We walked away from his sites for the children, and his sites for adult poor, with deep sadness for them and thanks for the religious people who devote their lives to providing support for them.

            We came away with deep sadness for the sufferings of so many young and old Jamaicans.  At the same time we felt admiration for those who are helping them.