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Uncovering the Viatorian Connection

September 7, 2016

Viatorian missionaries arrived in Formosa, now Taiwan, some 65 years ago, but their impact still is being felt by some of the Chinese students they taught.

Fr. Simon Lefebvre, CSV, and his former student, Sung Cheng, reunited at the Viatorian Province Center

Fr. Simon Lefebvre, CSV, and his former student, Sung Cheng, reunited at the Viatorian Province Center

That was the case last week when a former student made his way to the Viatorian Province Center in Arlington Heights to research the Viatorians who had taught him and the history of the community.

It was in 1967, or nearly 50 years ago that Mr. Sung Cheng first attended Wei Tao (Viator) School in Taichung, Formosa. His freshman year English teacher was Fr. Simon Lefebvre, CSV, who is retired and now living at the Province Center.

The former teacher — the oldest member of the Viatorian Community — and his student continue to stay in touch.

Mr. Sung, completing research in the Viatorian Archives

Mr. Sung, completing research in the Viatorian Archives

“At my other school, the teachers always shouted at us,” Mr. Cheng said. “At (Viator), they called me Mr. Cheng. That’s when I felt I was really respected.”

Viatorian missionaries arrived in Formosa, now Taiwan, in 1951 after all missionaries in mainland China were expelled from the country. Around the same time, Viatorians also established a mission in Kyoto, Japan and opened Rakusei-St. Viator.

Grotto at former Viatorian school in Taiwan

Grotto at former Viatorian school in Taiwan

“There were many missionaries in our country at that time,” Mr. Cheng says. “They made many sacrifices for us. They did everything for their students.”

As a result, Mr. Cheng and his classmates developed special ties with their teachers that they cherish to this day.

Mr. Cheng went on to attend a university in Taiwan before establishing a career in management at a manufacturing plant in Vietnam.

former Viatorian school entrance in Taiwan

former Viatorian school entrance in Taiwan

When his classmates began holding reunions with their former teachers, he set out to document the history of the school, and by extension its founders, the Viatorians, as well as write biographies of their teachers. He ultimately plans to publish a book.

When asked about the impact of his years at (Viator), Mr. Cheng said simply: “There was a special spirit at the school, a sense of freedom. It was different than any other school at the time.”

Viatorians no longer sponsor Wei Tao (Viator), but its new administrators have kept the name.