Celebrating, praying, singing and dining in Taiwan
Sisters Lisa Stallings, Jenny Howard and I have recently returned from a visit with our sisters in Taiwan. What a time!
Our main reason for going was to participate in the silver jubilee celebration of our Sister Rose Chiu and golden jubilee of our Sister Marilyn Baker. Celebrating with them was golden jubilarian Sister Angela Mary Fan of the Missionary Sisters of Providence.
What an event! Sister Rose has ministered in Taiwan for many years – parish work for a time but she labored longest and most enthusiastically at St. Theresa Opportunity Center, a ministry dedicated to the needs of physically and mentally challenged persons.
Sister Marilyn had served at Providence University for 37 years before her retirement and return to the U.S. more than a year ago. She had been ministering at Catholic University when the Congregation asked her to return to Taiwan for this current year. Marilyn did so happily and generously.
Sister Angela Mary is a member of the Missionary Sisters of Providence, founded by our Mother Marie Gratia. Mother Marie Gratia was the first superior of the sisters sent to China in 1920. Early on, she saw the need to establish a native community of women religious and so began the Missionary Sisters of Providence.
A little history
Both congregations came to Taiwan after World War II. During that year, Mother Marie Gratia – with several other SPs and many other sister and priest missionaries – was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Japanese. When released, Mother Marie Gratia, other SPs and the Missionary Sisters of Providence came to Taiwan. Ever since the two religious communities have been fast friends and faithful ministerial partners. (If interested in learning more, read the history of our Asian mission in Sister Ann Colette’s book, Against All Odds, available at The Gift Shop at Providence Center.)
All this to say, the celebration was a community of persons touched by the ministries and lives of these three women religious. Taiwan is a small island but every compass point had sent representatives to the liturgy and luncheon. From the north, south, east and west of the island persons who knew one or more of the celebrants gathered to pray, sing and dine!
During the liturgy and after communion, each of the three sisters gave a “witness” talk – a witness to how she had been called and what her ongoing response has been for 25 or 50 years. Each had a Powerpoint! The quiet of the very large congregation was profound as we listened to each one’s faith journey.
My “take homes”
My “take homes” from the celebration are two – one serious and one a little frivolous.
Serious: It was clear to me that these three women had made a most profound impact on the lives of students, ministerial colleagues, parents, alumni, neighbors, the official Church of Taiwan. They were revered, loved, respected and admired by the many in attendance. It was clear to me we were celebrating lives lived as faithful and loving women religious.
Frivolous: The celebration was – naturally – mostly in the Chinese language. None of which I could understand. In the midst of Sister Angela’s witness presentation, she said what sounded like this: “chee chee foo foo.” Lisa and I, seated next to each other, exchanged glances. “Chee chee foo foo” – wonder what that means? When we asked our sisters later in the day, we were told it means life’s ups and downs, its peaks and valleys.
So, I guess if I’m meant to learn Chinese, this is a great beginning– and one made more meaningful having been learned from a woman religious who has known life’s ups and downs and can still celebrate with joy her 50 years of fidelity to the vows she professed years ago!
In all your ups and downs, may you know the presence of that “Providence that thus far has never failed us.”