Taiwan Augustinians gather—come rain or high water
Kaoshiung, TAIWAN—On August 28, 2018, we were set to leave our convent in Daliao at 8am towards The Kenting Catholic Center (墾丁天主教中心), the venue of our annual Augustinian gathering in Taiwan. The place is approximately 2 hours drive from our convent. The community’s car is ready, packed of the things we might need for the 2 days rendezvous with the other two Augustinian congregations of sisters coming from the north of Taiwan. Our preparations were disrupted by a call from the Parish Pastoral Council president of Fray Gio’s Holy Cross Parish informing him of the flooding in the Church. Fray Gio became suddenly ambivalent of leaving for Kenting while his Church was inundated. For the past several days, the southern part of Taiwan covering the areas of Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Tainan and Chiayi had been pounded by heavy torrential rain that flooded many of the roads and low-lying areas causing various accidents and enormous damages to properties and businesses. Thankfully, when we passed by the Church, much of the water has already receded and the PPC president together with some Vietnamese parishioners were busy mopping the wet floors of the Church. Upon thorough assessment of the situation and hearing words of assurance from his PPC President, Fray Gio decided stay on the journey with us.
Driving to Kenting was not easy due to heavy downpours causing the windshield to blur. Because of loose soil, some areas were eroded and flowed down the roads making them slippery and dangerous. Various potholes on the roads were not easily spotted resulting to a bumpy ride. Fray Owen was in constant communication with the sisters who were also driving and commuting all the way from the north. We finally arrived at our destination past 11am after a brief stop at 7-11 convenient store for breakfast. Shortly after, Augustininian Missionary Sisters Srs. Maria Consolacion, Glora Mary and Viola arrived after a 5 hours of commuting from Taipei. The OSA Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation Srs. Joyce, Nora, Nancy, Kitz, and Irene finally arrived shortly before 12 noon.
Kenting National Park is an oceanfront destination in the southernmost part of Taiwan. Some dubbed the place as the summer capital of Taiwan. It features many breathtaking hiking trails and beautiful white sand beaches, caves, coral reefs and mountains. The Kenting Catholic Center, venue of this year’s Augustinian gathering is owned and managed by the Diocese of Kaohsiung. This newly constructed and inaugurated Catholic Center is located at the commercial heart of Kenting. At night, the main road fronting the Catholic Center is converted into a night market bustling with people enjoying street foods and shopping at various makeshift bazaars, or drinking at its various bars while listening to live bands.
The first activity of our Augustinian gathering was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Church named after Our Lady Star of the Sea (Stella Maris Church). Celebrating the Solemnity of Our Father Saint Augustine, Fray Joel presided and delivered the homily at the Holy Mass with Frays Owen, Gio and Nimrod as concelebrants. With one mind and heart intent upon God, we were united in joyful celebration at the Holy Eucharist. Our spirits after having been fed with Christ’s heavenly food in the Eucharist, our bodies were also nourished with sumptuous meal at a Thailand Restaurant – a short distance from our venue. After a hearty meal, we trudged back to our place under our umbrellas and took our siestas. We met again at the small chapel of the Catholic Center around 6 in the evening for our common vespers. After our evening prayers, we headed down to the night market beside our venue looking for something to eat. We found a small restaurant selling some fish balls, tempuras and tofus and decided the place fitted our desire for a light evening meal. The dinner was another occasion for us to tell stories about our life and apostolates. Banters and inspiring stories were shared. There was true camaraderie as daughters and sons of St. Augustine, our common spiritual father. Afterwards, we headed back to the Catholic Center under the intermittent drizzle. Everyone was exhausted for the day so we all went straight to our rooms and retired for the night.
The following morning (August 29), we met again at the small chapel to celebrate the Holy Mass with integrated lauds. Fray Owen was the main celebrant and homilist celebrating the votive mass in honor of Our Lady of Consolation. After the Mass, we packed our things and bid adieu to our venue and took our breakfast at the nearby Mc Donalds. Because of unrelenting torrential rain, there was no way for us to bask in the natural tourist spots in Kenting. So we proceeded to our next best option, The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (國立海洋生物博物館). The place occupies almost a hundred hectares (96.81 hectares) of land. Located at Che Cheng Township in Pingtung County, it exhibits and preserves thousands of species of marine life both found in Taiwan waters and international waters. This place is both recreational and educational where young and old can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. One can take pictures or videos (no flash allowed) of the fishes and various marine creatures. On some designated time, feeding of fishes by a professional diver is also shown to the public.
After 4 hours of enjoying the place, we called it a day and bid each other farewell and safe trip back to our designated areas of apostolate. It was still raining outside, but with smiles on our lips and with hearts joyous for a short respite we headed home content… (Fray Joel Dequilla, OAR)