Entering priesthood and serving in the mountains of Taiwan
Father Brendan O’Connell was American. Born on February 28, 1936, in New York City, U.S.A., he was the second-born child of his family. In the place where Father O’Connell lived, there was a tradition, where if the first-born and second-born children were both sons, the second-born child would pursue a career devoted to helping others, such as a doctor, priest, or other similar occupation. However, since Father O’Connell’s family was not very well-off, he was unable to enter medical school. Thus, Father O’Connell decided to study at a theological college to help others using religious methods. In May, 1963, Father O’Connell earned a master’s degree in Catholic theology at the State University of New York. In June, he went on to obtain a master’s degree in religious educationat the MaryknollSeminary and was immediately promoted to the title of Maryknoll Catholic Priest on June 8. On August 21, Father O’Connell came to Taiwan, where he began learning Hakka Chinese (one of the local regional dialects) in MiaoliCounty. Two years later, (July 1965), Father O’Connell was dispatched to Qingan Village in Tai’anTownship,which is located in the mountainous region of Miaoli District, to serve as the priest of a Catholic church.

During the 1960’s, Taiwan’s economy was still in the early stages of development. The living conditions were poor, the transportation facilities were incomplete, and travelling to the mountain regions was an even more difficult task. Father O’Connell travelled on a scooter at the time to bring flour, powdered milk, butter, food, and used clothing to various churches located in the mountains to guide worships and distribute goods.

Although the missionary journey through the mountains was extremely exhausting, Father O’Connell’s visits to the secluded churches allowed him to build friendly relations with the local people. During the Lunar New Year celebration, everyone fought over the honor of inviting the Father to feast with them. Through this, Father O’Connell was able to feel the passion and deep affection of the Taiwanese people, which may have been the main reason why Father O’Connell was willing to devote his entire life to Taiwan.

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 
 

Returning to America to study special education and stop abandonment of developmentally disabled children
Missionary work in the secluded villages located in the mountains gave Father O’Connell an opportunity to observe the plight of the basest level in Taiwanese society. The issue that Father O’Connell felt most concerned about was that many developmentally challenged children were not able to receive adequate care. At the time, Taiwanese society did not treat these children with special needs appropriately and often regarded them as disgraceful “retards”. Although parents felt anxious about their children’s future, they were at a loss about what to do. In addition, the educational and healthcare systems were completely lacking manpower and organizations related to this issue. As a result, nearly all developmentally challenged children in these mountainous regions lack care, treatment, rehabilitation, and especially education in their upbringing.

Father O’Connell second youngest little sister, Helen suffered from Down syndrome. In the past, treatment for children with special needs was also insufficient. For the sake of caring for her daughter, Father O’Connell’s mother experienced many hardships. Therefore, when Father O’Connell saw the plight of these developmentally impaired Taiwanese children, he was able to sympathize with the pain and helplessness that these families felt. In order to offer more effective aid to these developmentally challenged children, a desire to earn a degree in special education was aroused in Father O’Connell. In August 1974, Father O’Connell returned to America to study special education. The following May (1975), Father O’Connell was able to obtain a degree in special education from the Southern Connecticut State University and become a member of the C.E.C. (Council for Exceptional Children).

After completing a degree in special education, Father O’Connell returned to Taiwan in September 1975 and became a director of the St. Raphael Opportunity Center in Tainan City the next year, devoting himself to special education.

 
 

 

 

TOP