Dear Columban Friends,
Generous Columban benefactors like you have supported the Columban lay mission program for decades, and for that we and they are eternally grateful. The important work of bringing the Good News of the Gospel would not be possible without lay missionaries and you make that a reality through your generosity and prayers.
Columban lay missionary Sherryl Lou Capili recently provided this update about her work with migrants in our Taiwan mission: From the initial outbreak of Covid-19, Taiwan has been vigilant in managing and controlling the number of cases through its excellent healthcare and monitoring system. Its people, as well as the migrants and immigrants have been cautious and cooperative in following the government’s regulations that contributed well to keep the number of cases below 600 (as of October 2020), with most of it coming from outside the island and only a small number through local transmission of the virus.
Despite the seemingly "success story" that Taiwan has compared to other countries who have been tremendously hit and affected by this pandemic, the huge population of migrant workers in Taiwan also went through difficulties during these very trying times. Even if the migrant workers could move freely here in Taiwan, go to work, and continue to earn a living for their families back in their home countries, their mental and emotional health has been affected because they couldn’t help but worry about their loved ones at home. This is true especially for the migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines where cases are high. Because of the lockdown conditions in most places in the Philippines, the migrant workers found it hard to send money to their families because most of the remittance centers in the Philippines were closed.
Migrant workers who were supposed to go home for vacation to spend time with their families were not able to go due to flight cancellations. Some were not able to go home after completing their work contracts but were allowed to stay up to three additional months. There were also migrant workers who were sick with terminal diseases and wished to go home in order to spend time with their families, but due to the pandemic, were not able to go. Many died here in Taiwan. There were also migrant workers who went home for vacation before the lockdown and were not able to come back to Taiwan due to the border restrictions in their home country.
On a lighter note, because Taiwan couldn’t receive new workers from abroad, some caregivers were allowed to transfer to work in factories which was normally not allowed by law. It has also been easier recently to transfer to another company for those who are finishing their contracts with their current employers. Sunday Masses resumed in May following strict regulations like social distancing, wearing masks, checking body temperature, disinfecting, reserving seats before Sunday, etc.
At present there are two Columban lay missionaries from the Philippines who are serving at the Hope Workers’ Center (HWC). Joan Yap used to work as pastoral coordinator for the Filipino and English-speaking community and is now working as the shelter supervisor and adviser for the Filipino immigrants married to Taiwanese partners. I used to work at another migrant center in Hsinchu City as shelter supervisor and volunteer visiting the migrant workers at the detention center. I recently transferred to work at HWC to facilitate the Sunday school/catechism program for the children of the immigrants and am now taking on the role of pastoral coordinator. Some ordained Columbans also come to say Mass on Sundays and even join the migrant community in their activities.
Major celebrations and cultural activities have been canceled, but we are slowly coming back because the government has adjusted restrictions. Now we can have our gatherings as long as we continue to wear face masks. Joan and I continue to accompany the migrant workers at the center especially the dedicated volunteers who serve with them on Sundays. We are hopeful that the migrant workers will be able to continue to come to church and to the Hope Workers’ Center which is already their second home away from home.
I can only imagine how difficult it has been for the migrant workers in all countries to be so far away from their homes and loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic. We are profoundly grateful to the Columban missionaries like Sheryl and Joan who continue their work under even more difficult circumstances. The work of Columban missionaries worldwide would not be possible without you and your prayerful and financial support. Thank you for helping us help others.
Gratefully Yours in Christ,
Fr. John Burger
Director, U.S. Region