Tag Archives: St. John’s University SJU Taiwan

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Earth Day Vibes!

Green is the colour for Earth Day, of course! So here I am at our local elementary school all in green, for a day of fun and games with all 6 classes of children (photos taken by the school for their website). We were reusing empty plastic water bottles, and trying to get them across to the other side of the room by any means – but without touching them. It’s much harder than it looks, I can tell you!

Earth Day Vibes are not all fun and games for everyone however, and down in central and southern Taiwan, the earth is far too dry, and the drought is turning out to be extremely serious, the worst for over 50 years. Check out this very good BBC report here. Water is now cut for 48 hours a week in Taichung and all places south, so it’s a nightmare for those affected. Taiwan can claim to be the world’s most mountainous island, terrain is so steep that reservoirs are few, and water just seems to run straight off. There are very few long meandering rivers down south ~ the rivers are mostly short, and water goes directly into the sea. The reservoirs there are running out of water. Up here in the north, we have plenty of rain, but we’re praying for rain in the centre and south. It’s a bit ironic really seeing as we’re a small island surrounded by vast deep oceans on all sides. Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink….

The Deep Sea World by 許自貴 Hsu Tz-Guei, Taichung Art Museum

Like much else in Taiwan, water is heavily subsidized by the government and apparently we have the second lowest water prices in the world. Sounds good, but of course it leads to a lot of wastage, plus much of the infrastructure is old, and 14% of water is lost through leaking pipes. Now the government is subsidizing famers not to irrigate their land to grow rice, so that the water will be available for local industries. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: it’s a big challenge for governments too.

But not all is bad news down south. Yuanlin 員林 is a small town in central Taiwan and the government there has a Hollyhock Festival this month. Ah, it’s beautiful! On a weekend, the place is full of people coming to take photos and buy things at the local stalls. It really lifts people’s spirits to see all the flowers, and especially in the midst of this terrible drought.

Both the drought and the deadly train crash on April 2 on Taiwan’s east coast have dominated the domestic news recently, with public transport safety reviews and much discussion on cultural attitudes towards safety issues. Taiwan has done a really excellent job so far in keeping the country safe from Covid-19 (1,097 confirmed cases, 12 deaths), mostly through strict border and quarantine controls, testing and tracing, but in many other areas of safety, much still needs to be done.

Hydrangea chinensis 華八仙 in bloom on Yangmingshan

Taipei is blessed to have something the other cities in Taiwan don’t have, and that is a long meandering river that goes right through the heart of the city, from the mountains in the east westwards to the sea at Tamsui. And all along the river on both sides are bicycle paths. So if I need to go to Taipei, and the weather is good, then my idea of fun is to ride one of the shared bicycles, ‘You-Bike’ from Tamsui to Taipei along the riverside bike paths, starting very early in the morning. Takes 90 minutes or so each way, and can be very hot, but hey, it’s definitely worth it – and the roads once I get into the city are not too bad. These are some of the Earth Day Vibes from recent trips in the last week or two…..

I usually like to end the bike ride at Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf….

That’s also the terminus for the new Danhai light rail system. The trains are full of children’s book characters and fun art. Hey, we do things differently in Taiwan, there’s always something to make you smile! I took these photos at the terminus before everyone got on the train. Check them out!

Meanwhile down on our local ‘beach’ below St. John’s University, much work has been done by the local council upgrading the walkway. It’s now becoming a major place for sunset walks and gatherings, and it’s also where we did our fun run last week.

Looking back from the far end….

So last week was officially our annual celebration week for St. John’s University (SJU) 54th anniversary. Most of the large formal events were cancelled as a precaution in the pandemic, but one event that did go ahead was the 3.5 km fun run. Always the highlight for us every year! Our chaplain, staff and students wore our light blue student fellowship T-shirts, then we received yellow T-shirts as prizes. All first and second year students had to take part, plus we had others in fancy dress or indigenous outfits, along with some seniors from our community classes – in total over 600 people. A few staff joined in, with T-shirts available for the first 5 men and 5 women. The weather was perfect, and we ran round by the sea too. I was asked by our SJU reporter to take some photos as I ran, and she used some of them in her article (see here). Ah it was really fun, and check out the photos to see how we all did. Ha ha!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle also applies to my birthday celebrations which have been going on for the last month. With the global pandemic, Tomb-Sweeping Festival and Easter weekend, plus the train crash and now the drought, so I had other things to focus on and therefore reduced and delayed somewhat. Thanks to Rev. Charles C. T. Chen and his family, plus good friend A-Guan and all those in St. James’ Church, Taichung for the delicious birthday meals…

And we had a good time celebrating April birthdays in Advent Church, SJU Student Fellowship and the diocesan office too. Special thanks to Mei-Mei Lin for the huge birthday cake and candles…

Then a few days ago, we lost one of our beloved church members, Huei-Wen. Although she had been ill for a while, she didn’t want anyone to worry, and so, even in her last few weeks, didn’t want anyone to know. She didn’t want anyone to be sad or mourn either, and in our rector’s sermon today, he shared about how she continued to be joyful right to the end, always smiling at the nurses and showing her appreciation to them. We remember how she always came to church meetings with tea-eggs and tofu snacks for us to enjoy, how she ran the schools outreach work from Advent Church, and how she took such good care of her small grandsons. And how she made me laugh always wearing high open-toed sandals, even in the middle of the coldest winter! We give thanks to God for her life and deep faith, and pray for her family. May the joy of Christ that filled her also fill each one of us, and may we always be ready to share that joy with all those around us.

So belated greetings to you all for Earth Day 2021, and hope you’re working on how to reduce, reuse and recycle in your own home and community ~ and how you can push the government and elected officials to make this a priority. Y’know, those children were having such fun playing with old plastic water bottles that some said they were going home to practice. They loved it! Bringing joy, fun and happiness to others, and especially children, doesn’t need to cost a whole lot of money, and the burden of saving the earth can be shared with others in our community ~ so let’s go!

🌸🌸 Yes, the Cherry Blossom’s Out! 🌸🌸

The dark pink cherry blossom is in bloom all over Taipei, looking spectacular! Everyone says it’s even more beautiful than ever ~ maybe because of the very cold start to January ~ with 2 separate days of snow on Yangmingshan, the mountains above Taipei. Whatever the reason, the world has become pink, and it’s beautiful!

The cherry blossom season up at Yangming Park (in the Yangmingshan National Park area) officially started today, and today was also the first day of our holiday for New Year…

This is the cherry blossom at St. John’s University, taken yesterday…

And at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, Taipei on Wednesday…

There’s also plum blossom just coming to an end – also in CKS Memorial and over at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park too….. This is the ROC national flower, the focus of much poetry and art, and commonly used for girls names: 梅 Méi

And there’s even a few daffodils coming out today at Yangming Park ~ spring must really be coming. YES!

One week to go to Chinese / Lunar New Year / Spring Festival ~ on Friday February 12. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

It’s the Year of the Ox (ox / cattle / cow: 牛 pronounced ‘niú’ – hence the pun for ‘new’) so wishing you all a

Happy 牛 Year!

The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go ~ to Yangmingshan 陽明山 with Tze-Foun 子寬 and Dong-Gua 冬瓜!

You just can’t beat a fine Saturday on Yangmingshan. And especially in the company of 2 very strong young men! A cold start, but sunny and dry all day, very muddy in just one place, but otherwise perfect. The 2 very strong young men who came with me yesterday are former students here at St. John’s University (SJU). Tze-Foun子寬 (in dark red) from Malaysia graduated 18 months ago and one of his dreams has been to go mountain climbing in Taiwan, while Dong-Gua 冬瓜 (in the black T-shirt) is from Taiwan, and last went up Yangmingshan when he came with me about 5 years ago. Both are now working full-time so fitting in exercise is a challenge – but if they hadn’t come with me, I think they were just planning to go to the Taipei Game Show instead. Yangmingshan is just so much better!

So, Saturday was THE day. Weather forecast perfect. We left SJU on the first bus at 5:45 am. From Qingtian Temple, just above Beitou, we did the western circuit of Mt. Xiangtian 向天山 and Mt. Miantian 面天山, then the 3 of the Datun range 大屯山 West, South and Main Peaks and back via Erziping 二子坪. On the top of Mt. Miantian, we met 2 SJU alumni (photo below), and there were lots and lots of people everywhere, ah yes, we talked to everyone! After all, it’s not every day that a group made up quite like ours goes mountain climbing together. And survives to tell the tale – and still smiling!

Kudos to Dong-Gua whose endurance levels were 100%, he persevered and completed the whole circuit, despite apparently not having done any exercise for the last 2 years, nor having any breakfast on Saturday morning, as well as breaking the sole of his boot on mountain No. 3, ripping his trouser leg wide open on mountain No. 4, and surviving more or less only on chocolate and coffee until midday. He never feels the cold and spent all day in a T-shirt, while the rest of us were well done up – check out his boot below!

Kudos too to Tze-Foun who put in 100% effort, with tons of energy, enthusiasm and patience, and despite longing all day for his lunch and getting leg cramp in the last few hours, he now has all sorts of ideas for taking his friends up the same route, and has lots of people already interested for the next trip. He’s shared his experiences widely with everyone at church today, oh he was so excited ~ his coming on our trip was such a blessing!

Gotta smile though, we all have aching legs today, even though yesterday was slow going and we hardly worked up a sweat all day. Ah but it was fun! Last time I did that circuit, in August last year, it took nearly 6 hours, with 4 hours 30 minutes of moving time. This time it took us 9 hours, and moving time was the almost the same, 4 hours 20 minutes. Speed is not everything, but we did have a lot of rests for Dong-Gua to recover his energy! Hey, the guys were so lovely, and we were all so happy to finish in one piece. And they did get very creative with the sticks they found to help them along!

A great day out, thanks guys!

And we came down to the cherry blossom at the Qingtian Temple bus stop, just coming out and looking beautiful!

Advent Church & St. John’s University Charity Fundraising 2020 @ 天主教福利會 ‘Cathwel Service’, Shenkeng 深坑, Taipei

Cathwel Service (Cath-wel is short for Catholic Welfare) 財團法人天主教福利會, is the Taiwan branch of the US Catholic Relief Services, founded in 1949, originally to help unmarried mothers and their children. It continues its ministry helping disadvantaged women and children; many of the children have special needs, others have various disabilities. Some will be adopted by families in Taiwan, some by families overseas (you’ll find lots of info about their experiences of international adoption via google), others will remain at the centre until they reach adulthood. Currently there are about 40 children living at the centre, called Jonah House – with different age children on different floors. We visited yesterday, and saw some of the youngest children, and met some of the staff. All the other children attend local schools during the day. Despite the cold temperatures and rain outside, everyone there was so warm and friendly!

Our visit came as a result of our Christmas 2020 Charity Fundraising Events at St. John’s University (SJU) and Advent Church, which raised a total of almost NT$ 250,000 for the charity (see the previous post for details of our charity bazaar). Thanks be to God ~ and to everyone who contributed!

We visited as a group of 8, representing both SJU and Advent Church. We were also able to collect the official receipts, which will be distributed to all those who made a donation, so that they can file their tax returns. The Cathwel Service CEO, Ms. Yen-Chi Ting, presented an official Certificate of Thanks in the chapel, first to our SJU chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and then to Mr. Ming-Chuan Chen, our Advent Church senior warden.

And us altogether…

The chapel is stunning! It is in the basement area of the building along with the carpark, but it is below an open area above. I gather it used to be a fairly traditional RC chapel until it needed renovation due to a badly leaking roof last year.

Fr. Fabrizio Tosolini (杜敬一神父) is an Italian RC priest who has taught the Bible for many years at Fu-Jen RC Seminary, Taipei. Many of our clergy have also studied there under him, including our SJU chaplain, Rev. Wu, so he was able to describe to us the meaning of each picture. Fr. Tosolini is a member of the Missionary Order of Saint Francis Xavier and also a very gifted artist. He painted the pictures that decorate the newly-renovated chapel, which was completed and opened only last month, December 2020.

The picture above the altar is of Jesus, his mother and his disciple, John. The writing on the 2 long red pieces of paper was done by the children. On the left, words of Jesus: ‘Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I thank you because you have revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven to little children’, and on the right it says, ‘If you fall in love, stay in love’ (from the Arrupe Prayer, attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, which starts ‘Nothing is more practical than finding God’, and is also very popular as a song).

On the right-side wall, there is a line of 14 small paintings, serving as the Stations of the Cross…. check out the eyes!

On the left wall and at the main entrance are other paintings, mostly much larger…..

This organization is based in Shenkeng 深坑, on the SE edge of Taipei, an old coal-mining town on the edge of the mountains. They have a large building right on the main road in front of Shenkeng Old Street. This is the mosaic version!

Shenkeng Old Street is famous for its stinky tofu and every other kind of tofu. This is it!

After our visit to the centre, we just had to visit the Old Street for some of the famous tofu, plus other dishes ~ kindly hosted by Ming-Chuan and his wife…. It was all delicious!

This is the Old Street, with hardly any people. At the weekend, it’s full, but even so, with the pandemic, there are no international tourists. We all agreed it was a much nicer Old Street than our local one in Tamsui!

It was, and is very cold, and it’s been raining and cold for days. A massive cold front has swept in and frozen us all up! “6°C, feels like -1°C” said my phone yesterday morning. This is not a country that does ‘cold’ very well. We have no central heating, everything is built to keep us cool not warm! Everyone is wearing a ton of layers, inside and outside – temperatures inside and outside are more or less the same. Our houses, offices, schools and lifestyle are much more suited to summer than winter – Taiwan is on the Tropic of Cancer, after all. But a few years ago, we did have snow on Taipei’s Yangmingshan Mountains, and the news yesterday morning said that 5 cm of snow had fallen up there overnight. However, the mountains were hidden from our view – in swirling clouds and rain all day. Until that it is about 4:30 pm, after we had got back from Shenkeng, when the clouds cleared ~ and yes, in the far distance we could see a sprinkling of white snow! We all rushed out and up to the 3rd floor of St. John’s University to take photos. Such excitement!

Update, Saturday – and the snow has stayed throughout last night and today. Those mountains have looked the same all day today. We’re all excited about the snow, but everyone is freezing cold!

Enough excitement for one weekend. Stay warm everyone, and thanks as always for your continuing support!

Advent & Christmas 2020 🎄🕯️🎅🦌🎁⛄🌟⛪🔔🤶🎶👼

December 2020 flashed past in a whirl of activities, but when I read last year’s blog post of Advent & Christmas 2019, this year seems so quiet in comparison. December 2019 was jam-packed full! This year things were quieter, partly because of the pandemic ~ so there were less large activities and fewer parties, no visitors and less travel, but also because St. John’s University (SJU) has been downsizing, so there’s far fewer faculty, staff and students – and, let’s face it, far less money to spend or donate. Many of our local businesses are suffering too from our downsizing, and people are being more careful with their money. With non-stop rain, strong winds and cold temps in this area of Taiwan for most of December, it’s the time of the year when everyone needs a bit of Christmas cheer ~ and here we are at the SJU main entrance wishing the guard a Merry Christmas! 🎅🎅

Covid-19 update: Since an isolated locally-transmitted Covid-19 case a few days ago (traced to a pilot who didn’t follow quarantine rules and then wouldn’t reveal his movements and contacts; he’s since been fired and fined), the Taiwan government has further tightened restrictions. With the UK Covid variant spreading around the world, there is high alert and extra restrictions on people coming from the UK. This includes them all being quarantined in government facilities for 14 days on arrival, rather than in registered quarantine hotels of their own choice, and each one having to test negative before being released from quarantine. Flights to and from the UK will be cancelled altogether from January until the situation improves ~ and in the last few days, the Taiwan Post Office has also announced the temporary suspension of all postal services to the UK. Some of our churches have cancelled parties and celebrations, others continue on. Ours mostly continue on, and school and work continues as normal, which means we’re all still here – in our offices and classrooms. No break for Christmas, but we do have January 1 off, and then we’ll have about 3 more weeks of term until the Chinese New Year holidays start.

These are a few highlights of our activities here at SJU and Advent Church this past month, starting with lighting candles on the Advent Wreath each week in each of SJU main offices. Bishop Chang also came with us one week. The above photo is SJU President Huang lighting the Advent candles for Week 2 ~ and in our offices below….

A few days before Christmas, we went out around the campus and across the road to the shops to share the good news of Christmas with our neighbours…

We did a similar thing at church member’s homes, and at 8:00 am on Christmas Day morning, we went to share the good news of Christmas and to give out small gifts to the children at Xian-Xiao, our neighboring junior high school. They are so lovely!

Every year during Advent, the church and university combine to raise money for charity, and despite the economic downturn due to the pandemic as well as the downsizing of SJU, this year we decided to continue the tradition, and chose ‘Cathwel Service’ (‘Cathwel’ is short for ‘Catholic Welfare’) 財團法人天主教福利會, the Taiwan branch of the US Catholic Relief Services. They came to give a talk about their work, which is mainly to provide care and help for disabled children, disadvantaged women and their children, and all those who struggle to take care of their families; they are one of the few organizations in Taiwan legally registered to arrange adoptions, both in Taiwan and overseas. For our fundraising, mostly we rely on individual direct donations, but for our students, they give their time and energy to help run a large bazaar. This involves collecting and selling second-hand goods, as well as making and selling lots of food, helped by church members and SJU staff, organized by the SJU Chaplaincy. The event was held on December 16, and Bishop Chang and his wife came along too. Ah, it was fun!

This year our aim was to raise NT$ 200,000, and thanks be to God, the total amount raised was about NT$ 250,000. We will be visiting the charity centre in Taipei for a formal presentation on January 8, so watch this space for photos! (It turned out to be a big day with lots of photos taken, so the next blog post is dedicated to the visit). This is the presentation!

As Christmas is not a national holiday, so we hold our main (or only) service in the evening of Christmas Eve. The congregation who come along is always affected by what day of the week it falls on. This year, Christmas Eve was on a weekday so our students could be there, but many church members were working, so unable to come. Some of our former students return every year for this service, it’s great! The service was beautiful, all candlelit at the start as we sang ‘Silent Night’ ~ very moving.

St. John’s Day was marked on Monday December 28 this year, and we had a service for about 60 people, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Advent Church. At the end of the service, there was a presentation of 2 cheques, firstly a cheque for NT$ 100,000 presented on behalf of Advent Church by Ms. Marge Tan to SJU President Huang to cover the cost of repairs, maintenance, utilities and cleaning of the church during this year. The other cheque, for NT$ 4,366,705, was presented by Bishop Chang to SJU President Huang on behalf of the diocese. In August, at our diocesan convention, Bishop Chang had shared his vision, that with the many problems facing SJU of seriously falling student numbers and therefore a large financial shortfall, it would be inappropriate for Advent Church to put on an expensive and elaborate 50th anniversary celebration. Instead we would raise money to donate to SJU in thanksgiving and to show our love and support. Most of this money was collected from individual donations made to the diocese, and it also includes a donation of NT$ 515,429 from a annual trust fund of The Episcopal Church for the SJU Library. The original aim was to raise a grand total of NT$ 500,000, but that has been vastly exceeded, thanks be to God ~ and to all those who have donated!

We were honoured that so many clergy, church members and representatives of SJU were able to be at the service, including clergy who came especially for the occasion from Hualien and Kaohsiung. At the end of the service we had lunchboxes, supplied by a restaurant run by one of our church members. Simple but delicious!

We had plenty more activities in Advent, far too many to mention here, but I will finish with photos of a happy day I spent at Xingren Elementary School 興仁國小, on December 18, where I told the story of Santa Claus / St. Nicholas, set in Turkey in the year 300 AD. The older children, grades 3-6, recycled the pictures of my old Christmas cards, sent in past years mostly from the UK, to make pop-up cards of their own. The younger children made Christmas tree pictures with stickers and the letters of Merry Christmas. These photos below are all downloaded from the school facebook page – if you’ve sent me a Christmas card in the past few years, then know that it was put to good use. Thank you!

Thank you all for your Christmas wishes for 2020, and your prayers and support throughout the past year. Here’s to the New Year 2021, stay safe and well, and wishing you all a blessed and peaceful year ahead! 🥂

Stop Press: Just announced today is the news that from January 1, 2021, our SJU chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu will also become rector of Advent Church, serving in both roles. Please do pray for him, it is a big responsibility!

Advent Word 2020, Day 15 ‘Go’

#AdventWord #Go

The seven practices of the Way of Love are often interconnected. To practice go, we add words frequently. Go and preach. Go and serve. Go and listen. Go and praise. Go and pray. In our ways of faith following Jesus, we must find the courage to move beyond our communities and comfortable relationships to unknown places. Doing that work takes practice; I don’t know many people who flourish when pushed into unknown situations….

In the path of my heart this Advent, I’m crossing the barrier that says light and darkness are white and black. When God chose to bring the light of the world to earth on a night in Bethlehem in Mary’s womb, God made it clear that light and darkness cannot exist without each other. Too much of one and little of the other withers and destroys. Deepening ourselves in our hearts may result in the need to shine a light in unseen and unknown cracks. We can only do this after taking time to adjust our vision to the dark to see what our hearts have hidden, so that when the lights turn on and leave us without sight for a while, we remember where to look.

Just one more photo before you go!

Saying farewell to our students on Graduation Day @ Advent Church, St. John’s University, June 20, 2020. To get the stained glass artwork in the picture, the only way is to lie on the floor!

Advent Word 2020, Day 3 ‘Strengthen’

#AdventWord #Strengthen 

Háshįnee in Diné (Navajo) means “Beloved.” One of my spiritual disciplines is to make time to meditate on my ancestral words, which invite me to reflect and grow closer into a relationship with my people and the Divine. Háshįnee must be said from the heart, for it acknowledges profound kinship. Imagine for a moment the way God expresses love and compassion for Jesus: “You are my beloved Son.”  I feel a glowing admiration of love and hope transpire within my soul in response to these sacred words uttered by the Divine. Living in the way of Háshįnee strengthens our holistic being by simplest acts of humility. Listen for Háshįnee on the Advent journey in God’s heart, so that transformation might evolve in our hearts. 

#StrongerTogether @ St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony, Taipei 成年禮 Nov. 18, 2020

Advent Word 2020, Day 2 ‘Deliver’

#AdventWord #Deliver

The psalmist says: “But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” Isaiah says: “for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.” Deliver us, oh Lord, from the trials and tribulations we have placed upon ourselves. Free us from this burden which we eagerly and freely picked up, for it is too great for us to bear. Deliver us from ourselves in words, actions, and deeds.

‘Stand And Deliver’ @ St. John’s University Student Fellowship Cosplay ‘Movie Characters’ Party: June 4, 2020

St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony 成年禮 2020!

After long weeks of hard work for the clergy, staff and students of our St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy – today was THE day, our SJU Coming of Age Ceremony!

This annual event is highly praised by the Ministry of Education, and is a wonderful way to welcome our first-year university and fourth-year junior college students into the grown up world. All have turned 18 in the past year (some are several years older), but this ceremony is a way of acknowledging their new freedoms – and of course responsibilities – now that they’re adults. Some of the emphasis is on thanking parents and teachers for their role in reaching this milestone. All the students were dressed very smartly in their new blue SJU ties – though some did need a bit of help to fix them!

Temperature checks were made at the entrance and face-masks were worn by all, except those on stage using a microphone. Taiwan continues its long run of over 200 days with no domestic transmissions of Covid-19, but the winter flu season is coming, and precautions are being stepped up – especially with increasing numbers of imported cases coming from overseas. Actually this week we have an Indian summer with sunshine and temperatures in their top 20’s, it’s really warm!

During the course of the ceremony, the students toasted each other with a small cup of wine….

Each of the class tutors was also welcomed to the ceremony, served a small cup of tea and presented with a poinsettia plant…

Parents were invited too, and also presented with a plant. This year for the first time ever, some of the extra speeches and presentations were replaced with a foot-washing ceremony. Parents were invited to take part, and 8 of them accepted – and had their feet washed by their son or daughter. For Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this is the first time he has attended as bishop and chair of the SJU Board of Trustees. His original idea was for foot washing with faculty too, but in the end, it was just the 8 parents and their children. It was really good and the atmosphere was great ~ the parents and students who took part were so happy!

As well as VIP speeches from distinguished alumni, SJU President Huang and Bishop Chang, one of the students always gives a speech, and we usually choose a Christian who then shares the story of their Christian faith. This year, it was a young man, Ricky from Malaysia, and he gave quite an amazing testimony. The prayers were given by Melissa, also from Malaysia – in fact both of these students are from Anglican Churches, and we’re so happy that they’ve joined our student fellowship.

The ceremony ended with musical performances from some of our student groups, including our student fellowship – and then finished with the singing of the SJU School Song, and the blessing from Bishop Chang.

Our student numbers continue to fall – at today’s event, we had somewhere over 200 students – but that includes both first-year university and the fourth-year junior college students. The last time I wrote a blog post about this ceremony was in November 2017, when I see we had 350 students attending the ceremony, the year before, in 2016, there were 800 students, and way back in 2012, there were 1,500 students in their first-year. We thank God for all those students who are here, please do pray for them. There are increasing numbers of students coming from Malaysia, and this coming winter vacation, they are facing the reality that they are not going to be able to go home for Chinese New Year, due to quarantine restrictions. Many of them will hope to stay here locally and find a job for those few weeks. Chinese New Year will be very different for those not able to go home. We are busy making plans, hoping to organize activities and meals for those who’ll be here.

Our student fellowship, led by Min-Wen, our chaplain Rev. H. H. Wu, and the chaplaincy staff, Shu-Jing and Tzi-Wei worked really hard to organize today’s big event, and it went so well. I just turned up 30 minutes beforehand to start taking a few photos (just in case you can’t spot me – I’m on the temperature check screen!) These are a selection….

And this is the group photo of all those who helped organize the event, along with Bishop Chang….. they’re all happy it went so well!

They all deserve a huge amount of praise. Thank you everyone, and thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings!

50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service for Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970) 王長齡主教逝世 50 周年紀念感恩禮拜

This year, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of the death of Bishop James Chang-Ling Wong 王長齡主教 (1900–1970), first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967, predecessor of St. John’s University (SJU), Taiwan. Bishop Wong died on April 27, 1970 and he was buried on the highest point of the SJSMIT campus. Advent Church was eventually built around his grave, which is located under the altar….

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, as Bishop of Taiwan and Chair of SJU Board of Trustees, chose today for the 50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:30 am in Advent Church (rescheduled from April due to the pandemic). After weeks of heavy rain and strong winds, finally the weather improved and, although very overcast and cool, it stayed mostly dry. Autumn is here!

On this day 55 years ago, October 23, 1965, the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the new SJSMIT construction was held, and building work began. Money was very scarce and it was extremely hard work for Bishop Wong to raise the funds needed to construct all the buildings and pay the salaries, the stress of which is believed to have contributed to his early death. Bishop Wong’s famous motto and the driving force behind setting up SJSMIT was always, ‘以基督得勝的生命影響生命’, translated as “Transforming Lives through the Life of Christ’. This has also been a major influence on the life and witness of Bishop Chang himself, and of many students and alumni of SJU over the years. Today is also the day when the church commemorates St. James of Jerusalem (brother of Jesus, who died a martyr in AD 62 or 69) so the liturgical colour of the day was red.

Advent Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary too this year, and at Bishop Chang’s suggestion, the church is marking the occasion by raising NT$ 500,000 to give as a gift to St. John’s University on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020. SJU is currently facing serious financial problems primarily due to low student enrollment, and although it will be a relatively small gift, it will be a sign of our concern and shared hope for the future. In Bishop Chang’s sermon today, he reminded the congregation of how, for the 40th anniversary of Advent Church, the church, university and community together raised NT$ 30 million to build the new Advent Church Centre (opened in June 2016), its Chinese name given in memory of Bishop Wong (長齡生命關懷中心), and fulfilling his legacy motto of transforming lives through the life of Christ. Just as Bishop Wong himself rose to the challenge to raise money for SJSMIT, and just as we raised the money to build Advent Church Centre, so Bishop Chang encouraged the congregation not to give up, but believing SJU has a future, so we must press on and do our best to help SJU rise again.

In the congregation at today’s service were many invited guests, including clergy, SJSMIT alumni, SJU trustees, faculty, staff, students, church members, local councilors and friends. We had also notified friends overseas, including Bishop Wong’s own family, who we were so pleased to welcome to visit SJU last December. Some of those at the service today were former SJSMIT chaplains and their families, and some were alumni from the first student class enrolled at SJSMIT in 1967 – a few knew Bishop Wong personally, others had seen him on the campus and had attended his funeral.

We are grateful to Shiao-Ping from Good Shepherd Church, who came especially to do the beautiful flower arrangements….

And Mrs. Amy Chee for playing the organ…

And to all for their participation, thank you. You will notice that face-masks were compulsory for the actual service (apart from Bishop Chang when preaching). They were taken off for the group photos at the end. It was a very special service…