Warm greetings of joy and peace from the Claretian Missionaries in Taiwan! We are very happy to pen these few lines from this distant paradise of panoramic landscape and remarkable hospitality. We hope that you are all fine over there and pray for the same.
The Claretian Presence & Apostolate
The Claretian Mission in Taiwan comes under the East Asian Independent Delegation (established in 1954) of the Claretian Congregation that comprises of Japan, Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong & the Mainland China. At present, Rev. Fr. Marcelli Fonts is the Major Superior of the Delegation. The Delegation Curia is situated in Japan. The Claretian presence in Taiwan has been from 1994.
It was in 2008, two of our Claretian priests from St. Thomas Province reached the mission in Taiwan for the first time, namely, Frs. Joshy Chirayilparampil & Thomas Parackathottilyil. Followed by, on 20th July 2011, Frs. Liju Kuriath & Bobin Punnackapadavil reached here, who at present, attend their two years of Chinese (Mandarin) Language Course at Fu Jen Catholic University, which is only a walkable distance from our residence. At present, the Claretian community in Taiwan consists of six Claretians, namely, Fr. Arturo Morales (Chile- the superior), Fr. Mario Bonfaini (Vicar-Italy), Fr. Peter Chao (Taiwan), Fr. Joshy Chirayilparampil, Fr. Liju Kuriath and Fr. Bobin Punnackapadavil. At Taishan, almost 15 kms away from the capital city of Taipei, we have a residence of our own.
The Claretian apostolate in Taiwan is unique. Our Missionaries actively involve themselves in various apostolates, such as, taking care of the pastoral needs of two of the parishes (Assumption & Sacred Heart Churches at Keelung) under the Arch-diocese of Taipei, the aboriginal group, called Amis Tribe (the prominent among the 14 recognized aboriginal tribes in Taiwan) and the Dominican school community, teaching in Seminaries in China, giving courses and retreats to seminarians, nuns and laity, supporting the Huang Shan community in China, taking care of the pastoral needs of the people working in ship at Keelung Harbor, the Japanese Community, the Philippino community and so on.
The Landscape & the Political Situation of Taiwan
Well, the Republic of China-ROC (Taiwan), also known, especially in the past, as Formosa, meaning "Beautiful Island", is an island of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The areas currently under the control of the ROC are the main island of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and many other minor islands. The land is blessed with beautiful panoramic sceneries, hills, rivers and so on. Though the geographical size of the nation is very small, almost the size of our Kerala, it is the land that stands unparalleled in its agricultural and industrial goods in the global world. It is the land that enjoys one of the highest standards of living in Asia. Taiwan has a significant place in its various agricultural products, of which the rice, sugarcane and areca nut form the prominent place. However, by 1970s, Taiwan had shifted from a traditionally agricultural economy to an industrial one. It was Japan that led her to the industrialization.
Taiwan’s rapid economic growth in the decades after World War II has transformed her into an industrialized developed country. Its advanced technology industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwanese companies manufacture a large portion of the world's consumer electronics. Today, Taiwan’s attention is more directed to manufacturing of computers, electronic machines, communication equipments and so on. Her trading partners are USA, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore etc.
Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was under Japan. The Republic of China was formally established on 1st January 1912 by the nationalists on mainland China and from its founding until 1949 it was based in mainland China. But in 1949, when the Communist Party of China took over all of mainland China and founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing as a result of the Chinese Civil War, the nationalists i.e., the Kuomintang party (KMT) resettled its government to Taiwan and declared Taipei as the provisional capital. KMT is currently the ruling political party of the ROC and the current president Ma Ying-Jeou, a Catholic, elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012, is the seventh KMT member to hold the office of the presidency.
Language, Religion & Weather
Mandarin, the official language, is almost universally used and understood, and a portion of the population speaks other languages, mainly Taiwanese, Holo and Hakka. In addition, each of Taiwan’s 14 officially recognized indigenous groups has its own language.
According to the CIA World Fact Book and other latest sources from US State Department or the Religious Affairs Section of the MOI, over 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of the polytheistic ancient Chinese religion, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism and 4.5% are adherents of Christianity (of which Catholics form only 2% of the total population of Taiwan and at present there are seven dioceses in Taiwan of which Taipei is the Archdiocese). According to the 2005 census, of the 26 religions recognized by the ROC government, the five largest are: Buddhism (35.1%), Taoism (33%), I-Kuan Tao (3.5%), Protestantism (2.6%), and Roman Catholicism (1.3%).
The climate on the island is generally marine (oceanic climate). Two distinct seasons of weather are summer (May to October-27-38º C) and winter (November to March, 6-15º C). From July to October typhoons are most likely to strike, on average about four hits per year.
Aboriginal People in Taiwan
Taiwanese aborigines, literally “original inhabitants” is the term commonly applied in reference to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. As of 2009, their total population is around 499,500 (approximately 2% of Taiwan's population). There are 14 recognized Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, of which the Amis is the largest tribal group. In the year 2000, the Amis numbered 148,992 and this was approximately 37.5% of Taiwan's total indigenous population. The ‘Harvest Festival’, also known as the ‘Harvest Ceremony’, is the most important festival for aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. It is held for celebrating the harvest. The ceremony will last around seven days. It will be held between July, August, and September.
We are very much grateful to all the members of St. Thomas Province, and very specially, the present provincial, Rev. Fr. Thomas Vattukulam and his council, for your sincere love and concern for all of us. Kindly continue to support us with your valuable prayers. Let us pray for each other that the Claretian mission and presence will further thrive in the global scenario.
For the Claretian Community in Taiwan
Fr. Mathew (Liju) Kuriath CMF
28 September 2012