A 10-year-old vision of building an early intervention and mainstream education building

Obtaining citizenship was a personal desire of Father O’Connell; however, Father O’Connell had an even greater wish: to build a “Bethlehem Early Intervention and Mainstream Education Center”. Construction of this center would solve the problem of having insufficient space and allow even more developmentally challenged and disabled children to receive better care.


The shortage of learning space was a problem that began to appear soon after the Bethlehem Foundation was founded. As enrolment increased from less than 10 students in its early stages to more than 100 ten years later (2007), the capacity of the institution was clearly inadequate to support its current number of occupants. Fortunately, the neighboring Xuejia Catholic Church was kind enough to lend them land, allowing the addition of a kitchen and dining hall. However, it was still not enough. During the tenth anniversary (2007) of the Bethlehem Foundation, Father O’Connell expressed his desire to build a brand-new building on the vacant land within five years in order to expand the service area.

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 
 

The strenuous task of fundraising leads to hospitalization in the intensive care unit

In March 2011, Father’s O’Connell lost his hearing in his right ear and his health began to deteriorate. However, he continued to passionately promote the building of the new center. Construction of a new building was estimated to cost NT$85,000,000 (it would later grow to NT$136,000,000 due to an increase in land area), a sum far beyond what the Bethlehem Foundation could bear. Fundraising was necessary to amass the required money; hence, Father O’Connell commissioned the Love Hope Foundation to plan the “Love Hope” fundraising project. Since the fundraising target was very high, progress was not as smooth as Father O’Connell had hoped and in addition to travelling across Taiwan to raise money, Father O’Connell also regularly bought lottery tickets, in hopes of winning money and supplementing additional funds.

Although the Love Hope Foundation was responsible for the fundraising activities, Father O’Connell still had to make many public appearances, which placed a large burden on his stamina. This exhaustion, along with the severe stress of fundraising, caused Father O’Connell’s health to deteriorate. During the August of the same year, Father O’Connell entered the National Cheng Kung University Hospital intensive care unit due to bacterial infection of his lungs. At the time, doctors had even sent a notice of critical condition but fortunately, Father O’Connell’s health later began to improve and he was transferred into a regular hospital room, although he was still required to stay for about three weeks. Father O’Connell’s hospitalization aroused the concern of many people. On September 3, the principal of the Tainan Deguang Catholic High School, Rita Sun, even invited over 200 alumni, teachers, and students to hold an evening party, “A Prayer for Father O’Connell” and used song and candles to bestow their blessing. On September 9, Father O’Connell finally recovered and was discharged from the hospital.

 
 

 

 
 

Deguang Catholic high school held a blessing

ceremony for Father O'Connell to recover soon.

Tzumu kindergarten’s students wrote cards for

Father O'Connell when he was in the hospital

After leaving the hospital, Father O'Connell

cares those students even though he is ill

 
 

 

 

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