One of the best parts about being an archivist is getting to find unique and interesting photographs in our collections. I have found many hidden gems tucked away in obscure collections, invisible to the world. For this blog post, I will feature one of my more recent discoveries: Robert Kennedy’s visit to the Bishop Ford Center in Hong Kong.

You can see the photo I found on the right, taken in 1962 during Robert Kennedy’s Goodwill Tour as the United States Attorney General. I found this photo amongst a number of others from this visit, alongside a press release given by Maryknoll. This particular photo stood out amongst the rest because it is representative of Maryknoll’s drive to help the people any way they could. There is a lot of interesting history behind this photo, so let’s dive right in!

Robert Kennedy distributes food with Fr. Howard Trube, MM at the Bishop Ford Memorial Center in Hong Kong, February 12, 1962
Fr. Howard Trube, MM

A Determined Priest

The first thing to talk about is the man standing next to Robert Kennedy, Fr. Howard D. Trube, MM. He is the founder of the Bishop Ford Memorial School and Center, and a long-time Maryknoll missioner to China. Fr. Trube started his mission in 1940, spending the next twelve years in Kaying, China before being forced out by the Communist Revolution. He made his way to Hong Kong, initially just to rest, but an overflow of Chinese refugees coming to Hong Kong shifted his attention to his new home. In 1953, he received a land grant from the Diocese of Hong Kong and a significant gift directly from Cardinal Spellman. This gave him the means to found Bishop Ford Center and start helping everyone he could. 

A Place for Refugees

The Bishop Ford Memorial Center and School was named after the recently deceased Bishop Francis X. Ford, MM. The work of the school and center was an extension on the relief efforts Fr. Trube was already involved in. Immediately after being assigned to Hong Kong, Fr. Trube created a school for adult education, a clinic to serve the poor, and noodle projects to help feed the ever increasing number of people. When the School and Center opened in 1953, Fr. Trube was able to greatly expand his ability to aid the poor and refugees. 

By the time of Robert Kennedy’ visit in 1962, the Bishop Ford Memorial School was educating over two thousand children, with another 300 adults attending evening classes. The Center also included a nursery, two libraries serving over 2,100 people, a clinic, welfare center, and a food distribution center. The Food distribution center was a particularly successful element of Fr. Trube’s work. By 1962, the center was producing 3,000 pounds of noodles, 1,500 small loaves of bread, and 150 gallons of milk daily.

Fr. Trube with Chinese Children in front of the Bishop Ford Center sign, c. 1953
Back Cover for the November 1962 issue of Maryknoll Magazine
Robert Kennedy distributes food with Fr. Howard Trube, MM at the Bishop Ford Memorial Center in Hong Kong, February 12, 1962

Robert Kennedy’s Visit

With the background of Kennedy’s visit set, let’s discuss why he was in Hong Kong. In early February 1962, Kennedy went to Japan to attend a series on conferences on US-Japan Relations. This was the beginning of a larger goodwill tour across the world, including stops in Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Vietnam, and West Berlin. The stop in Hong Kong was meant to be a short two-day rest from a tense Japan visit. While in Hong Kong, Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel decided to visit Fr. Trube and the Bishop Ford Center.

The photo shows a snapshot of Robert Kennedy and Fr. Trube handing out packages of noodles to a Chinese family. Interestingly, this photo represent the collaboration of Maryknoll and the US Government to support this project. The flour used at the Bishop Ford Center was US Surplus Flour, made available by the US Government. Here we have a snapshot of the good that can happen when organizations work together to help the people.


Let us finish this post off with a quote from Robert Kennedy himself after touring the Bishop Ford Center:

It is an inspiration to see the work being done for others on a voluntary basis at the Center. I am very proud that Americans are participating so actively as well as people from other countries.

Robert F. Kennedy, about the Bishop Ford Center