SHANTAO CATHOLIC WEEKLY
(BY FR. PETER CHI,C.M.)
It has been fifty years since the Congregation of the Mission started its mission in Taiwan. Last February, this Congregation celebrated its golden jubilee and held a workshop on the spirit of St. Vincent, its founder. A lot of the Congregation's endeavors in Taiwan were exhibited, but there was no sight of Shantao Catholic Weekly. Why not? Actually, Shantao ought to be known because it is INDEED the hidden treasure of the Congregation.
Shantao was first launched on August 15, 1955. The original purpose was for the communication among the parishioners in St. Mary's Church located on Chienkuo 4th Road. Shantao was initiated by the American priest, Rev. Thomas Smith, C.M. He had been expelled from the Yujiang Diocese of Jiangxi Province by communist China, and was then appointed by Bishop Joseph Chen, the Apostolic Prelate of Kaohsiung Diocese as the priest to serve the mainlanders in their pastoral needs. At that time, the number of the mainlanders was quite huge, scattered around every corner of the district. Under such circumstances, to forward pastoral directives and to inform pastoral activities were very difficult. Thus there was an urgent need for preaching the gospel by written language. Nonetheless, Rev. Smith had to wait for the right time in view of the lack of a Chinese priest's help.
2. THE LAUNCH OF SHANTAO:
In mid June 1955, three Chinese priests just returning from Italy joined the work of the Congregation. They all had worked before in Yujiang Diocese together with Rev. Smith. As their bishop was a Vincentian, so they were appointed to work with a Vincentian priest. The three priests lived together with the Vincentians and worked together, but the three did not belong to the Congregation. Rev. Peter Chi was sent to Kaohsiung assisting Rev. Smith, and the other two took positions in Tainan.
Rev. Chi's arrival at St. Mary's Church was an answer to Rev. Smith's prayer. The first assignment Rev. Smith gave him was to start a newspaper, simply a newsletter distributed to the parishioners. Complying with the Pastor's request, Rev. Chi began the preparatory work. Assisted by Rev. Smith, three young men came to help him. Two were officers working in the military's newspaper; the third was a government official. All of them were soldiers who came from China, and were all baptized. Francis Xavier Lyou, Raymond Yen and Francis Chi were their names. These three plus Rev. Chi were the whole preparatory task force. Thanks to their previous experience, in less than two months from the beginning of the preparation, the first issue of Shantao was able to be launched on August 15,.
It was intentional to launch the first issue on August 15 for two reasons: 1) This day was the feast of Assumption and was meant to put Shantao in Holy Mother's care; and 2) the name "Shantao" means "Mother of Guidance".
At first, Shantao was published weekly with 500 copies, and the target readers were the parishioners in St. Mary's Church. In less than three months, it was increased to over 3000 copies, and it covered all areas in Taiwan; even the subscription from the overseas dioceses kept increasing. In view of this, Shantao could not hold on to its original mission. It had to change course, elevate its vision, and march toward an even greater endeavor.
In the very beginning, there were only four persons who helped. Within a few months, the manpower grew to triple its original size. They were all amateurs. During their leisure time after work, they spared 17 or 18 hours a
week between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. to work unremittingly for Shantao. As a result, the published volumes, the scope and contents of the reports were constantly improving. The people working in and out of the office were rapidly increasing. These people were all volunteers without receiving any pay; some of them have been dedicated to Shantao for over 10 years.
There had always been a close tie among them. They were of one heart and one mind, shared bliss and adversity together, and had a constant dedication. It's almost a miracle. Except for being blessed by our Holy Mother and inspired by the brotherly love of Rev. Smith, the love among them could not find any better explanation.
Shantao started the first issue in 1955 and continued to the 1488th issue in 1984. Within 29 years, the circulation had increased from 500 to 12000, and the size and format of the publication had been enlarged. The enhanced improvement was rather encouraging. But the fruit of the success lay in all the colleagues' sustained efforts to overcome hardship and also the perseverance and dedication to strive for improvement. During the 1488 issues in the 29 years, there had never been any delayed or short publication. Not until the transfer of the publication rights, had Shantao ever paid any single reward for tens of millions of articles in the 1488 issues! In addition to the low subscription fee and a few personal donations, the main revenue of the weekly came from the donations of the Vincentian Western Province of the United States, which supported the great amount of both printing cost and personnel cost. On the day of the transfer, the Congregation was excited and pleased to hand it over to Kaohsiung Diocese.
During the 1980s, the Catholic development in the Kaohsiung Diocese had come to a certain level and Rev. Tien-Hsiang Cheng was promoted to be a bishop and became the first bishop in the Kaohsiung Diocese and later an archbishop. He divided Kaohsiung City into more than twenty parishes. Every parish had its own regular parishioners. All parishioners, no matter if they were Mainlanders or Taiwanese, belonged to the parish where they lived. St. Mary's Church was only one of the parishes in the city. This was somehow in conflict with the original purpose of Shantao. On the other hand, the relevant business was quite a burden and the expense was huge. After several discussions, considering the newspaper's future, it was resolved to turn it over to the Diocese. Further consideration was based on the observation that all modern enterprises grew with entrepreneurship, advanced management and strong financial support. It could not count on a small unit in the parish for any growth. Therefore, on behalf of the Congregation, Rev. John Hickey, the Superior of Vincentian's Kaohsiung House, consulted with Bishop Tien-Hsiang Cheng and reached a consensus that the Diocese take over Shantao. The Diocese requested the support of two years' expenses in installment payments. Shantao was turned to over to the Diocese when it published its 1488th issue in 1984. Everybody gave Shantao its praise and blessings with full joy and expectation, hoping that it would continue to grow in the future.The Congregation, with a mother-like heart, pure love and the spirit of sacrifice, always devoted itself and gave many resources without being known for the growth and the transfer of Shantao. In the 29 years, it had invested incalculable material and spiritual resources but seldom made it known. Just like Rev.Paul Yupin, the late Cardinal, commented when he visited Shantao once: "It is INDEED the hidden treasure of the Congregation of the Mission in Taiwan!"