The first Beginnings (1)

When it became more and more evident that the Communists would overrun North China, the general visitator, Fr. Frederic Fuchs, SVD, in Spring 1948 sent the procurator of Fu Jen University, Fr. Peter Huengsberg SVD to Formosa in order to find places where SVD missionaries could retreat. All SVD missions were located in Northern China and therefore, were the first to be endangered by the Communists. April 15, 1948 Fr. Huengsberg gave a report to the general visitator in Peiping: “Travel Observations in Nord-Formosa(Taiwan)”, prepared in the capital Taipei and the harbor city of Keelung.

This very favorable report shows in its latter part the possibilities for the SVD in Formosa. These possibilities lay especially in the area of education, because the fame of Fu Jen University according to Fr. Huensberg “would open all roads for us”.

Already on 16 April 1948 the general visitator FR. Fuchs wrote to the general superior Fr. Kappenberg and proposed three places “which could be considered in case of danger for our confreres”, namely Hong Kong, Sichuan (Chengdu) and Formosa. Basing himself on the report from Fr. Huengsberg the general visitator proposed Formosa. On June 15, 1948 he reported further from Taiwan, that his Exc. Yu-pin and also his Exc. Riberi (Internuntius) advised to establish a branch school for Fu Jen Middle School in Formosa. The general visitator wrote further: “We (Fuchs and Huengsberg) will stay here for 8 days and consider all possibilities. Since this will for our Society be a question of a place for our confreres who can no longer remain in their mission, therefore, it is very urgent, especially also in order to give assurance to our confreres.”

The superior general answered on June 25, 1948: “Immediately after receiving the content of your letter of June 15 I have sent you a telegram with the word: “Affirmative”. Therefore, already during your negotiations in Shanghai you must have received the assurance that you had the agreement of the generalate for your plans for Formosa.” This “affirmative” from the generalate therefore, concerned the Fu Jen Middle School and places of refuge for missionaries from the Mainland.

August 1 1948 Fr. Huensberg was back in Taipei from Shanghai. He wrote August 5, 1948 to Fr. Fuchs: “I am daily on the road and work on 3 projects: house and land for a school; house and land for a hospital, house for a procure.” At the same time Fr. Huensberg had worked out a plan of action for the SVD in Taiwan: 1. a Middle School in Taipei City; a hospital for Taipei District.

About the financing Fr. Huensberg wrote: “Besides the actual management and engaging of staffs the Society of the Divine Word guarantees the ordinary budget and will cover all expenses not covered by ordinary income or extraordinary contributions.” At the end of the action plan he wrote: “Dr. 刘Chang Yu, Director General of the Taiwan Electric Power Co. Ltd. Taipei has been invited to act as Representative of the Divine Word for the negotiations regarding these above enterprises towards the local civil authorities and to form in same capacities the respective Boards of Trustees.”  

When one knows that this key figure, Mr. Liu, later on in Taipei was executed as suspected Communist, then one can imagine that here also was a reason, why the SVD projects in Formosa could not be realized. Fr. Huengsberg had a good impression of Mr. Liu. He wrote to Fr. Fuchs August 5, 1948: “in Liu we have a very valuable cooperator. His Christian faith and that of his family does not seem to be very deep; but he is very lovable, and very knowledgeable in practical matters in relation to the top figures here.”

Fr. Huengsberg was very active during August. August 11 he could communicate to Fr. Fuchs, that the Governor of Taiwan had accepted the presidency of the Board of Trustees of Fu Jen University, and that the mayor of Taipei also had become a Trustee. At the same time Fu Jen was promised a big piece of land near an old Shinto temple. “The place we are talking about lies to the north of the Guesthouse, at the other side of the river and forms the inside of an area in the form of a big horse shoe surrounded by densely wooded mountains. This place was since immemoriable times the holy ground of Taipei.” According to a report from Huengsberg Sept. 3, 1948 the size of the area together with surrounding wood land was 60 ha = 900 Mu, of which one third to two fifth could be utilized.

August 13 Fr. Huengsberg reported to Fr. Fuchs of a meeting with Rotary Club members, where he had met the English and American Consuls, who also were sympathetic to the Fu Jen project. The American Consul promised to speak for this project with the Governor.

In the same letter Fr. Huengsberg mentioned an already completed purchase of a house of 260 ping in Taipei for 30 million Taiwan dollar. Fr. Huengsberg also was negotiating the purchase of a second house in Taipei City for 70 million Taiwan dollar. “In this was we can soon take in 10 confreres. The project in Peitou one should no longer pursue, except for a seminary or something similar, for which, however, it would be very ideal.”