2018 will celebrate another significant moment in Irish history — the launch of the first Irish Catholic missionary society. It was a national event, drawing support not only from ecclesiastical circles but from the entire population with donations, and a sense of involvement, coming from adults and children all over the country.
The adventures of the early missionaries in China were followed closely, and with pride, for the next fifty years.
Less well-know is the legacy of the Anglican missionaries in China and the Dublin University Far East Mission (DUFEM) based in Trinity College. Between 1847 and 1950 its missionaries included the first Anglican bishops of North China (William Russell from Tipperary, in 1872), Fujian (John Hind from Belfast in 1918) and Zhejiang (John Curtis, Dublin in 1929). They all recognised the need for the Church in China to become more authentically Chinese and sought to hand over responsibility to local Church leaders.
The human cost of their mission was illustrated in 1895 with the murder of Rev Robert Steward, from a prominent Dublin family, with his wife and two children in Fujian by Buddhist extremists.
In the early period Catholic and Anglican missionaries in China were inclined to ignore each other’s existence but in recent years good relationships have led to collaboration. Last Saturday Dr Kerry Houston of DUFEM and Deacon Walter Lau from Hong Kong visited the Columban House in Maynooth to renew acquaintance and share experiences.
If you would like to know and experience more of Chinese life today, and are between 22 and 65, why not live there as a volunteer? Take a look at the www.aitece.ie website.