Fondly Remembering Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) 1930-2022

Professor Herbert Ma and Mrs. Aline Ma, 2014

Mrs. Aline Y. L. Ma 馬蕭亞麟 (Ma Siao Ya-Lin) died peacefully on June 18, 2022, the beloved wife of Professor Herbert H. P. Ma (馬漢寶 Ma Han-Pao), Canon Chancellor of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  Mrs. Ma, always known affectionately as Ma Mama, was a gracious, kind and warm-hearted friend of all in the Taiwan Episcopal Church. 

Professor and Mrs. Ma with Bishop David J. H. Lai, 2015

Her memorial room has been set up in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and the family are on hand every afternoon from June 23-29 to welcome visitors wishing to pay their respects.  The private cremation service will be held on June 29, followed by the memorial service on Saturday August 20 at 10:30 am, which will also be live-streamed from St. John’s Cathedral.  The long gap between these events will, along with fulfilling Taiwan’s quarantine requirements, enable the grandchildren to come from overseas and the Bishop of Taiwan, Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang to return home from the Lambeth Conference.  At this sad time, please do remember Professor Ma and all the family in your prayers. 

Yesterday I visited Mrs. Ma’s Memorial Room, remembering Mrs. Ma with her eldest daughter, Gabrielle

Professor Herbert Ma is a well-known figure in Taiwan, having taught law at National Taiwan University (NTU) for 52 years and served for 12 years as a Grand Justice of the Constitutional Court. In his retirement, he has kept in touch with many of his former students, including politicians, professors, judges and lawyers who count it an honor to have been in his classes.  In pride of place in the Ma family home are 2 photos of Professor Herbert Ma with one of his former students, former president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, who was among the first visitors to pay his respects at Mrs. Ma’s memorial room yesterday. 

Mrs. Ma’s Memorial Room, St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei

Mrs. Aline Ma was born in Shanghai, China in 1930, but her mother died when she was very young.  Her father, a banker, feared for the safety of his only child due to the war with Japan, so at the age of 7, he sent her with relatives to Germany.  The relatives were based in Berlin, studying at Berlin University; and the young Mrs. Ma went to live with a Prussian general’s family in Brandenburg City, where she always liked to say she learned ‘order, discipline and punctuality’, characteristics which stayed with her throughout her long and incredible life.  The Prussian family had Chinese connections in Beijing dating from before the Boxer Rebellion, but they could not speak Chinese, and on arrival, Mrs. Ma had no German language.  By the time her father visited her a year later, her German was fluent, but unfortunately she had forgotten all her Chinese, and only remembers sadly being completely unable to communicate with her father.  That was to be the last time she saw her father, as war and civil war intervened and they remained apart for the rest of his life.  He later remarried and had 3 more children, all of whom Mrs. Ma got to know in later life. 

Mrs. Ma’s early life story (photo from the Ma family)

The young Mrs. Ma spent the whole of World War II in Brandenburg City, suffering along with the German people, but in 1945 she and her relatives escaped the Russian occupation and fled to Switzerland where she was sent to boarding school.  After graduation, she had no resident permit to continue living in Europe, and so in 1955, unable to return to China, she travelled alone to Taiwan.  Although she could speak German, French and English, she could not speak Chinese, which initially made it difficult for her to find a job.  She later taught herself to speak and read Chinese, but German always remained her first language. 

Mrs. Ma with her early life story (photo from the Ma family)

It was, in fact, her inability to communicate in Chinese that brought Professor and Mrs. Ma together, as they found they could communicate perfectly with each other in English.  Their fathers had known each other in Shanghai, and the young couple met for the first time at a wedding reception in Taipei hosted by mutual friends.  The Ma family had moved to Taiwan in 1947, and the young Professor Ma, then a student, was invited by Episcopalian neighbors to attend worship services in their home. Apart from his brother-in-law who had been baptized in China, this was Professor Ma’s first direct contact with the Christian faith.  The services (which expanded to become the cathedral congregation) were led by a pastor from the China Inland Mission, Yang Yong-Jing 楊詠經, who later baptized the young Professor Ma.  Mrs. Ma was baptized after her marriage, and eventually Professor Ma’s parents became Christians too, and all played an important role in the development of the Taiwan Episcopal Church.

Professor and Mrs. Ma on their wedding day, 1957

Professor and Mrs. Ma were married in 1957 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, and their 4 children were born between 1959-64, Gabrielle 佑敏, Mason 佑聖, Vera 佑真 and Beatrice 佑遠. The family lived with Professor Ma’s parents, 3 generations under one roof. Mrs. Ma first taught German at the German Cultural Center and then for 30 years at NTU. As well as supporting her extremely busy husband, she also took care of their 4 children and her parents-in-law, and for some years led the cathedral ECW (Episcopal Church Women) and later the diocesan ECW.  In her retirement, she continued to inspire and support her family and church, welcoming visitors and sharing her warm hospitality.  Many of us count it an honor to have visited her home to listen to the story of her extraordinary early life, which has since been published in German and Chinese.  At every major church event, Mrs. Ma would be at her husband’s side, smiling and caring for everyone who came to greet them. Throughout their 65 years of marriage, Mrs. Ma has been a tower of strength and support for her husband, and Professor Ma has always acknowledged how blessed he has been to be married to such a great woman.   

Professor and Mrs. Ma with newly-consecrated Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife, Hannah, standing behind are Mr. Gary Tseng, senior warden of St. John’s Cathedral and his wife, Mrs. Amy Chin, diocesan vice-chancellor: February 22, 2020

Since the pandemic started, Professor and Mrs. Ma have largely remained in the safety of their home, participating in church services and events online.  A few months ago, Mrs. Ma suffered a stroke and had been in hospital since then. The most recent major church event they attended in person was the consecration of Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as Bishop of Taiwan on February 22, 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral.  At the end of the service, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry paid tribute to Professor Ma, presenting him with a letter of thanksgiving in recognition of his ministry, constancy, wisdom and faithfulness over the past 65 years to the Taiwan Episcopal Church.  By his side, as always, was his beloved wife, Mrs. Ma, smiling and content.  A great woman indeed, and she will be much missed by us all. 

Professor and Mrs. Ma with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Consecration Service at St. John’s Cathedral, February 22, 2020

We fondly remember Ma Mama at this time, giving thanks for her long life of dedication and humble service to her family, her church and to Almighty God. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Happy memories of a wonderful lady!

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