Yesterday the Dalgan chapel was full for the funeral of Fr John McGrath.
After 30 years of educational and administrative work within the Columban Society he was appointed, at the age of 59, to Hong Kong in 1989 and began his long wished-for ‘hands–on’ involvement in mission.
For nine years he was general manager of the then newly formed AITECE organisation which sent volunteer teachers and experts to Chinese universities. He saw this as a continuation of the Columban commitment to China.
Soon AITECE was sending English-speaking teacher from Ireland , the UK, Australia, the U.S., the Philippines and a number of other countries to China to develop person-to-person relationships and show that the West was supportive of China in its efforts to modernise. In return, those who went to China with AITECE learnt from bright and friendly university students that the West too had much to learn from a tradition which had kept respectful human relations at the heart of society.
In 1998, due to health concerns he moved from AITECE to pastoral work in Hong Kong and became the chaplain of the Catholic Center in Hong Kong Central, working with both locals and ex-patriates. He finally had to return to Ireland in 2016.
News of his death will bring back happy memories for many AITECE teachers who passed through Hong Kong during his time there and the good relationships he build up with universities in China.