Tag Archives: Solomon Islands

52nd Anniversary Celebrations @ St. John’s University, Taiwan 聖約翰科技大學52週年校慶!

”In my country, Kiribati, 52 is a wonderful age to be! Still young, still full of energy and enthusiasm, still willing to try new things; but also at 52, you’ve eaten a lot of coconuts, you’re mature, you’re full of wisdom!” The words, more or less, of Kiribati’s very lively Ambassador to Taiwan, Tessie Eria Lambourne, at the 52nd Anniversary Celebrations of St. John’s University last Saturday, April 27. She brought with her 6 of the 70+ students from Kiribati who are currently studying in Taiwan on scholarships from the Taiwan government; and they delighted the audience by performing one of their dances for us at the celebration event. Thank you, and what a great way to celebrate!

And afterwards they posed for a photo with our Vietnamese students, all dressed in their beautiful traditional costumes…

Due to Taiwan’s unique political situation, not many countries have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan – so the number of embassies and ambassadors is relatively few; 17 is the official total, that’s 16 nations plus the Holy See. This year, for the first time in its history, St. John’s University (SJU), Taiwan had the honour of welcoming, not just one, but three ambassadors to our anniversary celebrations! Here they all are, along with Admiral Pu Zechun from the Presidential Office and our VIP guests…

The ambassador from the Marshall Islands to Taiwan, Neijon Rema Edwards, newly arrived in Taiwan less than 4 months ago, told the assembled crowd how that very morning she had talked to the President of the Marshall Islands, Hilda C. Heine by phone and told her about her forthcoming visit to SJU that day. She was delighted to bring President Heine’s personal greetings and congratulations to SJU! This is Bishop David J. H. Lai, Bishop of Taiwan and chair of the SJU Board of Trustees, with Ambassador Lambourne from Kiribati on the left and Ambassador Edwards from the Marshall Islands on the right…

A bit of background: St. John’s University, Taiwan is the successor institution to St. John’s University, Shanghai, and the background history to the establishment of St. John’s University, Shanghai really starts in 1845, when Bishop William Boone (1811-1864), the first Anglican / Episcopal missionary bishop of Shanghai, arrived in Shanghai. In 1859, Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (1831-1906) arrived in China as a deacon, and was ordained priest by Bishop Boone the following year. He started missionary work among the Chinese, learned the Chinese language and started work on Chinese Bible translation. In 1877, he was consecrated as Bishop of Shanghai after receiving assurances of financial support to build a college to educate the Chinese in Shanghai, and so he founded St. John’s University, Shanghai, in 1879. Interestingly, Bishop James C. L. Wong, the first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and the founder of St. John’s University, Taiwan in 1967, was himself educated in the Bishop Boone Memorial School in Wuchang. This is me trying to explain some of the long SJU history to our VIP guests on Saturday…

In his speech at the SJU anniversary celebrations, Ambassador Joseph Pius Waleanisia from the Solomon Islands said that he was very moved by this, his first visit to SJU, in part because he noted that the history of SJU ran parallel with similar events in his own country. In 1845, as Bishop Boone was arriving in Shanghai, so in that same year, the first Roman Catholic missionaries (French Marists) reached the Solomon Islands, led by Bishop Epalle. The ambassador was himself educated in Marist mission schools, and he talked about how strong the RC and Anglican Churches are in the Solomon Islands, and the vital role that church schools have played in the education of his people…

Climate change is a major threat to all these 3 low-lying island nations in the Pacific Ocean, and the challenges are many. Kiribati is famously expected to be the first country in the world that will lose all of its land due to global warming. All 3 countries have sea, sand and sun in abundance, and green energy is their future. SJU President Herchang Ay is a leading expert on solar-powered cars and all things related to solar energy, known as ‘photovoltaics’. We now have a laboratory here at SJU full of machines that can make solar panels, plus lots of projects going on that use solar energy, for example in growing vegetables indoors under controlled conditions, using power generated from solar panels on the roof above…

It’s this green energy technology and all the creative things that can be done with it, plus the Dept. of Creative Design and all their beautiful furniture and woodwork designs which can be made using locally available materials, like coconut trees, all these were what the ambassadors were here to see…

And to mark the occasion, they took part with Bishop Lai, President Ay and other VIPs in the formal opening of the new centre, ‘The St. John’s and St. Mary’s Co-Creation Park’ (新埔共創基地) which houses all these projects. It was extremely windy but here they all are, getting ready to pull the red strings ….

And after….

We were also very honoured to welcome Rev. Canon James G. Callaway (far right in the photo below), General Secretary of CUAC (Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion) from New York, who was spending a few days on his first visit to Taiwan. He joined in all 2 days of events and celebrations, and I also had the pleasure of taking him sightseeing on the day of his arrival in Taipei.

And finally when we had finished all the formal events of the day, Bishop Lai invited everyone for tea-drinking at his SJU office, where not only did all the guests enjoy real Taiwan tea, but Bishop Lai also presented each of them with a copy of the Chinese Bible that was translated by Bishop Schereschewsky from the original Hebrew. For the last 25 years of his life, Bishop Schereschewsky, as a result of a severe stroke, could only type with 2 fingers, but he managed to translate the whole Bible, published in 1899…

We have had a whole week of SJU celebrations, and the day before all this happened, on Friday April 26, we held our annual anniversary service in Advent Church. SJU celebrates its foundation from the date it received permission from the Ministry of Education to start recruiting students, April 26, 1967. But also very significantly, it was on April 27, 1970 that Bishop James C. L. Wong, founder of SJU in Taiwan, died, and so each year, we hold a thanksgiving service to commemorate his death and give thanks for his life. It was led by our chaplain, Rev. Irving H. H. Wu, with preacher, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, former SJU chaplain and current rector of Advent Church, and attended by many of our clergy…

Along with other countries in the region, such as Japan, Taiwan is facing a major decline in overall numbers of university-age students, due to a falling birthrate and aging society. This decline is affecting many universities in Taiwan as they all compete to recruit as many students as possible from a smaller and smaller pool. This year SJU has 3,807 students, which is 63.86% of the number allowed by the Ministry of Education. President Ay, faculty and staff are working hard on new initiatives, including for example, the establishment of a Master’s program in Artificial Intelligence, and of course, the ‘Co-Creation Park’. Bishop Lai, as chair of the SJU board of trustees, along with the clergy of the diocese (many of whom are our alumni) and the church members, all are committed to supporting and praying for SJU through this present situation. In connection with this, many of our clergy from all over Taiwan accepted the invitation to come to SJU on Friday to participate in the anniversary service. The service was attended by about 100 people, including 70+ visitors from the Taiwan Episcopal Church, with clergy and/or lay representatives from nearly all our churches in Taiwan. This is the group from St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung who came by coach….

After the service was finished, we went round to the back of the church centre for a blessing, led by Bishop Lai, of the newly-installed labyrinth, which has been moved from further down the campus, making it easier to maintain…

And it was all followed by a delicious buffet lunch for all the lovely visitors in the church centre….

Another highlight of the SJU celebrations was the annual Fun Run which took place last Wednesday afternoon, with 600+ people taking part, mostly students, but also including some of the faculty and staff. Our student fellowship took part as a group, and lots of them were awarded T-shirts, which they then wore at the service on Sunday. The students from the SJU Indigenous Club walked the whole course in their traditional outfits – in 33°C! Ah yes, the whole Fun Run had a very special atmosphere!

On Sunday morning, April 28, as per tradition, our student fellowship led the worship service at Advent Church, taking on all the roles that they could participate in, from being part of the welcome team to reading the lessons, singing, taking up the offering, and clearing up after the lunch, and many more. They have been very busy all week, and particularly on the Saturday when the students had their own celebrations. This service was a really meaningful way to end our week of celebrations of the 52nd anniversary of SJU, giving thanks to Almighty God for his many blessings over the years, and committing the future into His hands.

Please do continue to pray for St. John’s University. To God be the glory, Amen!