Manila (AsiaNews) - The Church of Taiwan is fruitful, and continues to be a sign of hope for the faithful, despite the difficulties it has encountered in its recent past. This is the message issued by Fr. Jags Jugadora of the Mission Society of the Philippines (MSP), who for years has served at Queen of Heaven Parish in Shuili (diocese of Taichung), and entrusts the future of the local Church to the young.
"Although the number of Taiwanese Catholics is decreasing," says the Filipino priest, "I am still optimistic about the Church in Taiwan. While some Western missionaries say that it is useless, I am convinced that there is a source of hope: a good number of number Taiwanese men married Filipina, as well as Vietnamese, Catholics." He says that the education of their children will be a decisive factor for the growth of the Church in Taiwan, and much remains to be done.
The Mission Society of the Philippines is present in two dioceses in Taiwan: Hsinchu and Taichung. The first mission was founded by Fr. Carmelo Horlador on July 20, 1989, in the diocese of Hsinchu; in 2001, the religious of the MSP accepted a request to work in the diocese of Taichung as well. Today, there are seven missionaries of the order on the island, which celebrates its 150th anniversary of evangelization this year.
Fr. Jugadora explains that in the 1950's, there were many baptized Catholics, many of whom were poor; the work of the American missionary institute Maryknoll contributed to the economic and social development of the island. According to the Filipino religious, the Church in Taiwan is passing through a period of difficulty because of growing "secularism," migration abroad or to the big cities on the part of the younger generation, in part for educational reasons, and massive expansion in the number of Buddhist temples. And the Church must also be willing to criticize itself, because it "did not foresee the rapid growth of the country’s growing economy," which has created different needs among the population.
"Most of [my parishioners] are elderly. Their average age is 75, but they are still strong," Fr. Jugadora says. Now work must be done with the young people, in order to guarantee the future of the local community. The faithful "look up to Filipino priests," Fr. Jugadora concludes, "because they know that priests work for the Church in Taiwan."