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Taiwan: Msgr. Teodoro Labrador OP., Founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Chinese Sisters.

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We commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the death of our brother, the first Apostolic Vicar of Funing (Mindong) and the first Archbishop of Fuzhou, the Most Reverend Fr. Teodoro Labrador Fraile OP on 6 May 2020. The Chinese Dominican Sisters, the congregation which he had founded in China in 1932 celebrated this day with a solemn memorial mass this morning at Saint Mary’s Convent, their General House in Tounan (Yunlin Prefecture) in Central Taiwan which is under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Diocese of Chiayi.

The mass was presided by the Bishop of Chiayi, Msgr. Thomas Chung leading a representative group of local clergy and members of the Dominican family. The Province Our Lady of the Rosary was represented by the Vicar of the Provincial, Fr. Juan José González Veneros, OP and Fr. Jarvis Sy, OP. 

As we are still in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebration was intimate with all the sisters who are living in Taiwan had been convoked for this occasion ( this included some mainland Chinese sisters who are doing their theological studies in Taipei) to remember their beloved founder whom they fondly call as their Grandfather, who had died in the very same convent forty years ago, thus realizing his lifetime dream of the great and venerable missionary to die among the Chinese and to be buried in Chinese soil.

For a great number of our brethren in the Province, the figure of Msgr Labrador is well known as he had lived for many years at the Convent of San Pedro Martir; he had presided a great number of ordinations in our communities as well as other Churches and Cathedrals in Spain during his years of forced exile in Spain. 

A native of Palencia ( Old Castille) and born in 1888, he entered the Province at a very young age and after his formation, he was ordained in Manila and was immediately assigned to the Dominican missions in China in 1915 where he dedicated his life in the task of teaching at Saint Dominic College (Yang Kuang) in Fuzhou and served as Rector of the said institution. He was appointed as the first Apostolic Vicar of Funning or the Eastern region of the vast Dominican mission. There he tried his best to organize the diocese with the foundation of various institutions to promote apostolic personnel and local vocations. There he tried his best to organize the diocese with the foundation of various institutions to promote apostolic personnel and local vocations. Also, he founded charitable institutions and schools. Likewise, he organized the first feminine Dominican congregation in 1932, with the help and the collaboration of the Dominican Missionaries of the Rosary. Fr. Teodoro found this congregation for those souls desirous of serving God.

In 1946 he was appointed as the first Archbishop of Fuzhou where he continued his policy of indigenization in accordance with the norms of the Holy See. When China fell into the hands of the communists, as all foreign missionaries, he was detained and finally thrown out of the country in 1951 beginning his life as an exiled prelate in Spain. 

 In 1973, he accepted the invitation of the sisters which he had founded who are now reorganized in Taiwan to spend his last years with them. He arrived in Taiwan the following years where he was able to leave a priceless spiritual patrimony to his spiritual daughters with the example of his piety, great apostolic zeal, and Dominican fidelity. He was buried at the local Catholic cemetery and in 2005 his remains were exhumed to be moved to the newly constructed Congregational mausoleum-columbarium where he awaits the coming of Christ in glory with his beloved daughters.

During the homily, Msgr. Chung reflected on the gospel of wheat and spoke about the sacrificial life of the great missionary and the spirit which he had bequeathed to his congregation. He also made a bride commentary on the last testament of the founder as points to revive the spirit and the charism of the congregation.

After the liturgical celebration, the Prioress General, Sister Matthew Hsu gave thanks all who attended and reaffirmed the commitment of the congregation and each sister to live the spirit with greater fidelity and dedication to the Gospel.

The Congregation has been blessed with a good and healthy number of vocations from China and from Vietnam. They have a separate province in China and are working in various provinces and ministries. In Taiwan, they have various institutions and ministries within the territory and maintain various missions abroad: In Canada (Toronto), USA (Los Angeles), the Philippines (Manila) and in Spain (Valencia).

 

By Fr. Jarvis Sy, OP.

(original text)