Following the 2018 publications of two volumes documenting the efforts made by Bethlehem Mission Society (La Société missionnaire de Bethléem, 白冷會) to boost the quality of living in eastern Taiwan, a third volume titled "Literature of Bethlehem Mission Society, SMB in Taiwan (3) (白冷會臺灣區會文獻選譯、三)" is now available, giving readers a holistic picture of the society's missionary works and accomplishments from 1955 to 2013.
In 1953, several young priests from the Switzerland-based society were sent to promote their faith in Taiwan. They have since devoted more than six decades establishing schools, improving healthcare quality, and pushing for infrastructure improvements in Taitung. In addition to missionary work, they also offer a helping hand to vulnerable households and those suffering from financial hardships.
To acknowledge the selfless dedication of the Swiss priests, the National Taitung Living Arts Center published the first two volumes of "Literature of Bethlehem Mission Society, SMB in Taiwan" in 2018. Complied and translated respectively by Taitung resident Chao Chuan-ming (趙川明) and Brother Augustin Büchel (歐思定), the project scored a warm response from readers in 2018.
Published in December 2019, the third volume is another milestone in the successful cooperation between Chao and Büchel. The six chapters are:
• "1980-2013: Taitung Deanery Chronicles (臺東總鐸區大事紀1980-2013)"
• "1955-1961: Reports from Taitung Deanery to Bethlehem Mission Society Headquarters (臺東總鐸區致總會報告書1955-1961)"
• "1963-1968: Reports on Formosa Taitung Craftsmanship Institute (福爾摩沙臺東工校報告書1963-1968)"
• "1955-2011: Changbin Parish Chronicles (長濱堂區大事紀 1955-2011)"
• "Archives on Missionary Works in Shinko Parish (新港堂區傳教記錄)"
• "Donghe Parish Chronicles (東河堂區大事紀)"
Chao said "1980-2013: Taitung Deanery Chronicles" continues on from the timeline section from the first two volumes, bringing to light the efforts the society had made during that period to carry out Catholic missions.
"1963-1968: Reports on Formosa Taitung Craftsmanship Institute," meanwhile, sheds light on the employment-oriented institute named in the chapter title, which was commonly called "Handwerkerschule" by the priests in reference to the German phrase for vocational school.
Now named Kung-Tung Technical Senior High School (公東高工), the institute has modeled itself after Switzerland's approach to vocational training, Chao noted, adding that its apprenticeship program had long been in place when the career-focused institution was still under development.
Compiled and printed by the secretariat of the society's headquarters, the third volume documents the school's major events and collections from 1958 to 1968. Among them, the most significant are the archives illuminating its apprenticeship program, which were mostly written by foreign technicians who volunteered for overseas service and teaching.
"1955-2011: Changbin Parish Chronicles," on the other hand, records how Changbin Parish became where the most successful missionary work took place. Catholicism was introduced to the area in 1954 by the late Reverend Jorrit de Boer (姚秉彝), who established the first church in Tapowaray (大俱來), an Amis settlement that is also known as Saranawan. Three years later, Boer set up a parish in Yiwan (宜灣), one of the Amis settlements in Taitung.
Over the next ten years, Catholic churches cropped up in ten major Amis communities with members from six villages, as well as in Changbin, Sanjian (三間), Ningpu (寧埔), and Zhuhu (竹湖) — the latter three being villages in the plains area of Taitung.
The tradition of recording major events in Changbin Parish has been passed down from late Reverend Hermann Brun (彭海曼), who established the parish, to his successor Father Josef Eugster (吳若石).
Upon retirement, Brun had remained in Changbin from 1956 to 1999, serving as a parochial vicar and also providing Eugster assistance. In those 43 years, apart from preaching the gospel, Brun teamed up with other missionaries to translate the New Testament into Amis and publish the "Sunday missals for the three-year cycle of the liturgy in the Southern Amis dialect (甲、乙、丙年南阿美語彌撒聖經本)."
In addition, Brun published "Hymns in Amis (阿美語聖歌本)," which has been widely regarded as the first local adaptation of biblical text in Taiwan. Aside from translating, Brun took the initiative to set up kindergartens in the parish as well to provide young children from rural areas with an early childhood education.
The collection also offers readers firsthand materials recounting Changbin Parish's past, including the foot massage program pioneered by Eugster to improve public health in the area and help the Amis people and foreign spouses earn a living. He then set up an association called "Father Josef's Method of Reflexology (社團法人吳若石神父全人發展協會)," in 2014, making Changbin the center of the nation's foot health therapy.
As researchers have unearthed more historic and literary materials showing the society's footprints across Taiwan, the National Taitung Living Arts Center hopes that the achievements forged by Bethlehem Mission Society in Taitung can be sustained and promoted through the ongoing publication of the "Literature of Bethlehem Mission Society, SMB in Taiwan" series.