Fr. Alois Tauch, SVD

The Exemplary Mission Spirit of Father Alois Tauch SVD

This past November 2, more than 60 no-longer-quite-so-young women gathered in Chiayi at the Carinal Tien Memorial Church to show their respect for Father Alois Tauch SVD, buried in the crypt of the church. These women wanted to recognize and celebrate Father Tauch's mission spirit in a special way.

In the beginning years, the Catholic mission in Taiwan made great progress from 1949 till 1970. The number of baptized miraculously increased from some 8000 to 300.000.  Of course, there are many social-political reasons for this fast growth.

But of no small importance was the fervor of so many missionaries who had  been forced to leave their mission in China and were now intent to double their efforts to work among the Chinese in Taiwan.

One of those zealous missionaries was Father Alois Tauch SVD, a German priest who had worked in Shandong for 17 years and who, after being expelled, was eager to continue to serve the Chinese. He arrived in Taiwan in 1954 and carried on his mission vocation enthusiastically until his death in 1987.

When Father Tauch first arrived in Taiwan, he was appointed to the newly established diocese of Chiayi. He found nothing prepared there, not even a house or church in which to stay. After some searching, with the help of some Christians he could rent a house in Beikang, a small town along the coast. He realized that without catechists, however, it would be impossible to increase the size of the fledgling local Catholic community. Therefore, with very humble beginnings, he began on his own to develop a small "school" for women catechists who were sent to him by other missionaries, fresh arrivals like himself from China, and in need of help for their mission work.

Many young women were sent to Father Tauch, and some, incredibly, were not yet even baptized.  But he knew how to animate them, first in short term courses, then in a full-scale academic program in catechism that extended for three full years.

Some of these first catechists were so enthusiastic in the light of his own faith in the Lord that they began to preach the Good News in nearby villages even before they themselves were baptized.  Father Tauch moved his school to Kaohsiung a few years later  and, with important cooperation with the Sheng Gung Sisters of the Immaculate Conception SMIC, organized the effort on a more permanent basis.

By the time it closed its doors in 1980, a few hundred women catechists and kindergarten teachers, several of whom went on to become religious sisters, were trained there.  

It all started when I visited the Sheng Gung Sisters convent. During a meal, some of  the Sisters told me how they had been students of Father Tauch, and were greatly impressed by his mission spirit. I knew that in our SVD archives we had many pictures of the catechist school. I  shared these pictures with the Sisters and the former catechists, and asked each to write a few words about their impressions as students of Father. One of the Sisters began contacting other students. We gradually were able to gather a list of about one hundred of Father's former students. Most of them had married and had grand- children, and of course several had passed away. Then we called a meeting to discuss how we could collect those precious remembrances of Father Tauch.

The idea now is to publish a book about the beginning of the mission in Taiwan and show how that original  mission fervor helped to work the miracle of so many conversions in such a short time. All this to encourage the Church in Taiwan now.

On the 21st of  November, sixty one students gathered for the third time to share their memories and personal experiences of  Father Tauch and, of course, also to meet their old school mates, some of whom they'd not seen for some thirty years.  

After a special memorial Mass, the women went down to the crypt to offer flowers and incense before the plaque erected where the ashes of  Father Tauch now rest.

Words cannot express how profoundly moving it was to see the "students" once again face to face their beloved "great teacher."  

In the afternoon we discussed how to improve the stories written by the students so that they may more easily become an inspiring history for our contemporary Church so different nowadays than it was at the time Father Tauch began his mission in Taiwan. To interest and motivate young people, we are now considering the collected stories as possible material to use among university students. They could explore these real stories, visit the old people and places. On the one hand themselves would get in touch with mission and faith and on the other hand could create short video clips to enliven and flesh out sermons and catechism classes.  

In 2017, on the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Father Tauch, we hope  to produce the history of this miraculous mission period, and provide video clips to serve the Taiwan mission.                                       

(Contributed by Fr. Jac Kuepers, SVD)