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Tainan, Taiwan, 6 February 2016
Dear friends in Christ and in Don Bosco. Many thanks for your message prompted by love and concern.
This morning our dear Rector, Fr. Matthew, and other Salesians, as scheduled, went to take part in a great re-union of Consecrated persons organized by the Diocese of Tainan and the Religious Congregations of Men and Women living in the Diocese of Tainan.
Early in the morning or in the deep night, at 03:57 a great earthquake took place: the epicenter is in a mountain town only some 40-50kms away from the city of Tainan, therefore also from our Salesian Technical School and our Mary Help of Christians Parish.
The Salesian quarter is on the fourth floor of a school building, built in 1968; some confreres live in an older wing built in 1964. In this school year exceptionally 13 Salesians live here; out of the group, four young Salesians hailing from Italy, Africa and Vietnam, are here studying the beautiful Chinese language. Providentially they went to Hong Kong the other day; so they missed the experience of a strong earthquake.
Awaken by the heavy tremor, we all got up, first thing to discover is the mess in our own rooms, with books, notes, pictures some souvenir or religious articles scattered on the floor. When I arrived at the main hall, I discovered the statues of Mary Help of Christians, of Our Lady of Vietnam, of St Joseph, with heads and arms broken and, excuse me for the expression, with the sacred heads detached from the bodies. The Statue of Our Lady of Zo-se’ (or She-shan) resisted the shock and remain intact, because is made of bronze!!!
I am tempted to say; OUR LADY, VIRGO POTENS, IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SATAN, GUISED IN THE FORM OF AN EARTHQUAKE. (This is good lesson for our faith!). The wooden stand of a Crucifix is broken, the painting of St. Dominic Savio, one meter long, is peacefully laying on the ground; the picture of St. Mary Mazzarello and Sts. Versiglia and Caravario remain untroubled, as their size is smaller and lighter!
The missionary from Vietnam put the statue of O.L. M.H.C, somehow removed for a few inches, back to her throne. The solid Tabernacle remains unshaken. Some pictures of our deceased confreres who have lived and worked in Taiwan, particularly in Tainan, fell in the turmoil and have been put back by that same priest from Vietnam.
In the dining room, almost everything is okay, even some “panettone” left over since Christmas time remain undisturbed on top of the cupboard. Haha!
Outside, on the veranda, The Rector, Fr. Matthew and the economer, Fr. Andrew, together with the “factotum” of the school who lives not far away from the school, called by emergency and rushed to out school, are busy to stop the water running out from the broken pipes.
May I stop here to describe all what happened in the school compound which is 40,000 square meters large. Any way the earthquake did not harm our four basket courts, two volleyball courts and our lawn football campus.
The 6-meters tall Statue of Jesus Saviour on the roof of the new 6-floor building is well safe, as inside there is an iron skeleton. He looks after all our School. Sorry, I did not yet check the smaller, only one meter tall, statue of St. Joseph the Worker, Patron of this Professional and Technical, on the top of the oldest building. I suppose he must look after himself and also all his children below.
What about our parish? While we were checking our quarters, the parish priest, hailing from Vietnam, rushed to the parish building, just cross the Yu-nung Road. As he reported us this morning at the breakfast time, he found something similar to our situation, namely the holy statues on the floor with broken arms and heads.
One thing could be considered as a fortune or a misfortune. Let me explain. The parish church, capable of some 120 persons on the ground floor of a two-floors building, with a third floor later illegally added, was built in 1966, exactly 50 years ago. To be honest, it is sufficiently strong and safe, but certainly not up to the infinite dignity of the Almighty God.
For several years it is hoped in several circles to build a new Church, stronger and more decent place to honour God and the Saints. Due to several reasons, our good Superiors did not yet make that decision. So someone, including the poor undersigned wished that some night, while nobody is inside the church building, it collapse in the middles of an earthquake. Unfortunately, in this respects, the church building is still on the ground, though the statues are laying on the floor.
Hopefully some of our good superiors come to visit us in such a difficult moment. In the mean time let us pray. While I write these lines on behalf of the Rector absent for a solemn religious service, ambulance cars are sounding and running outside the school building.
One more report from Fr. Peter Porio, SDB
February 6, 2016 at 3:57 a.m., I was awaken by the 6.4 magnitude earthquake shaking the 4 storey building. I jumped out of bed and run outside my room to see if anything destroyed. I saw the water-pipe broken with much water flowing out. After some minutes the all the salesians came out.
At our morning Mass, we thank the Lord for keeping us all safe and sound.
After breakfast, we inspected the school and the parish. Everything was alright. That’s why we see Fr. Matthew li Min Tri smiling in front of the school. Praise God… God is good all the time.
Fr. Peter Porio, SDB in Don Bosco Tainan, Taiwan
By Fr. John Baptist Zen, SDB