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Parish swamped by typhoons in Taiwan

TAIPEI (UCAN): The parish of St. Stephen in Taitung City, Taiwan, as had its fair share of battering from the skies this year. When Super Typhoon Nepartak hit the island in July, it badly damaged its roof, leaving its floor looking like a 40 centimetre-deep pool.

With barely time to finish the mopping and cleaning up operations, the little community was hit again in September 19 by Typhoon Megi and just one month later was still scrambling to get the roof secure and weatherproofed before heavy rains as a result of Typhoon Haima were forecast to hit on October 20 and 21.

Bishop John Baptist Tseng King-ji is the pastor of the small parish. He said that since the flooding in July, when it is raining parishioners have been calling up about an hour before Mass to ask what clothes they should wear!

“When I was offering holy communion during Sunday Mass weeks ago, there was a sudden downpour. The church venue was flooded up to the ankles and the parishioners’ feet got all wet. But everyone continued to stand and pray fervently as the liturgy went on,” Bishop Tseng related.

Bishop Tseng is the only indigenous bishop in Taiwan and St. Stephen’s, known as the Nanwang Church (after an area inhabited by the Puyuma people), was built near paddy fields on the outskirts of Taitung City.

Locals build houses on high platforms to avoid floods if they can afford it.

However, the Church stands on the lowest-lying land in the vicinity and is inundated whenever torrential rain falls.

“Our parishioners hope to build a platform for the church but we don’t have the budget. We can only raise money penny by penny so that this home of God can be a shelter to all in times of rain and storm,” Bishop Tseng said.

Since Typhoon Haima the people have worked hard to fix the roof and build up sandbags around the church to try and hold of the flooding waters.

Typhoon Nepartak claimed two lives and injured 303 people in Taitung. Typhoon Megi caused four deaths and injured 527 people across Taiwan and left more than 3.64 million households without electricity.

Taiwan has 14 indigenous tribes each with their own language and traditions. About one-third of the 270,000 Catholic population in Taiwan are indigenous people.

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