KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN—On September 14 to 19, 2019 eighteen OAR parish priests and parochial vicars from the Philippines came to Taiwan for a meeting convoked by Fray Edgar Tubio, OAR, chairman of the Section on Ministerial and Mission Apostolate in the OAR Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno. The convocation was prompted by Pope Francis’ designation of October, 2019 as the Extraordinary Missionary Month to highlight the missionary agenda of the Church as set forth in the apostolic letter Maximum Illud promulgated by Pope Benedict XV 100 years ago. Taiwan, though the nearest among the foreign missions of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno is also ironically, the least known and liked mission destination by the members of the Province, primarily due to its difficult to learn and master Chinese language. Hence, when the official communication was relayed, the OAR Taiwan missionaries were delighted to accept the privilege of hosting the gathering of OAR friars from the Philippines who are working in the parishes.
The first batch of OAR friars from Cebu City landed at Kaohsiung International Airport on September 12, 2019. They were Frays Real, Granada, Villalino, and Plohimon. On September 14 at 30 minutes past 1 o’clock in the afternoon, the second batch of OAR friars from the Visayas and Mindanao areas arrived in Kaohsiung. They were Frays Andan, Cordero, Deguit, Parilla, Saycon, Ruiz, Castillo, and Virtudazo. At past 6 in the evening of September 14, OAR friars from Luzon areas landed in Kaohsiung city. They were Frays Tubio, Peligro, Lagrimas, Panaligan, Gaspar and Galanido. The friars were billeted at the OAR convent in Daliao District, Kaohsiung city.
Coincidentally, the arrival of the friars on September 14 fell on the celebration of Mid Autumn Festival中秋節in Taiwan. Barbecuing and moon gazing are some of the cultural traditions of Taiwanese people during this festival, so the friars were welcomed this way on their first night in Taiwan. Fray Peligro drew the group to a chorus by leading some familiar OAR songs and other OPM tunes while alternately playing the guitar and ukulele.
On September 15, the Parish of the Holy Cross聖十字架堂 in Daliao District celebrated its Patronal fiesta. Twenty four priests composed of 22 OARs, 1 OP and 1 SDB concelebrated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The attendees were excited and pleasantly surprised to see so many priests concelebrating in the Parish Fiesta Mass. This rare event has never happened before. This parish, considered a small one in the Diocese of Kaohsiung has, however, three communities coming to attend Masses on Sundays, namely, the Taiwanese, the Filipinos, and the Vietnamese. Fray Magbojos沈若翰, the pastor of this Parish and the OARs are the ones ministering to the Taiwanese and Filipino communities, while a Vietnamese priest comes to take care of the spiritual needs of the Vietnamese Catholics.
The following day, September 16, the friars headed towards Queen of Victory Church 勝利之后堂in Xiaogang District for the Mass, conference and fraternal sharing. The holy mass started at 10 o’clock in the morning. Fray Panaligan, who on that same day was celebrating his 33rd birthday was designated to preside the Mass and deliver the homily. During the conference, Fray Maturan馬文德shared about the histories of Catholicism as well as that of the OAR in Taiwan. He also talked about the challenges of doing missionary work in a country where Christianity is only about 2 percent of the densely populated Taoists and Buddhist believers. Drawing from the document Maximum illud, Fray Maturan also pointed some suggestions for effective evangelization. Towards the end of the conference, Most Rev. Peter Liu, D.D.劉振忠總主教, the Archbishop of Kaohsiung came and greeted the OAR friars. Everyone was honoured and delighted to meet and hear the Bishop. Following the conference, the OAR friars together with the Bishop and the host parishioners feasted on some local Taiwanese cuisine. After a hearty meal, the friars excitedly joined in dancing the traditional Harvest Festival 豐年節dance of the parishioners from the Amis tribe. Even Bishop Liu joined in the fun. Afterwards, an open forum was held during the afternoon where the missionaries in Taiwan were asked by the brothers on their life and mission apostolate. The day’s event was capped by another meal, this time together with the Parishioners of St. Joseph Parish聖若瑟堂, also in Xiaogang District. Truly, the warmth and hospitality of the Taiwanese faithful were felt by the visiting OAR friars.
On September 17, the guest OAR friars had the opportunity to visit the areas of apostolate where the Taiwan OAR missionaries serve. The first destination was a trip to the Aboriginal Cultural Park台灣原住民族文化園區塔瑪麓灣標誌 in Majia, Pingtung County followed by a crossing at the famous Shan-Chuan Glass Suspension Bridge 山川琉璃吊橋 connecting the Townships of Majia and Sandimen. Next, we visited our former parishes in Sandimen Holy Cross Parish聖十字架堂 and in Majia St. Joseph Parish 聖若瑟堂, the Worker Parish. Our last two destinations of the day were the St. Ezekiel Moreno Chapel聖穆頼諾堂 in Fanhua, Changzhi and St. Augustine Parish聖奧思定堂 in Linyuan District.
On September 18, the OAR Fathers were fascinated by the grandeur of Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum 佛光山佛陀紀念館. The friars were also initiated into the proper way of making and enjoying tea by a monk of the place. Soon after, everyone shared a vegetarian meal with other visitors of the place. After the tour to the Buddha museum, the afternoon was spent by the brothers for shopping and roaming around Kaohsiung city.
On September 19, the 18 OAR friars departed Kaohsiung in two batches. The first to leave were friars from the Visayas and Mindanao areas. The last batch from the Luzon areas left Taiwan in the evening of September 19.