Blogging about life at a Benedictine monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota
Friday, June 25, 2010
On Thursday, June 24, we had two special visitors to the Haehn Museum exhibit, Mission to China and Taiwan: 1930-2010. Ellen Wahl visited with Pat Gandolfo. Pat is an Oblate of our community and was formerly Sister Jacinta. While a Sister, she served for 10 years in our Taiwan mission, where she met a young girl named Mei Chu Chen. Mei Chu (meaning Beautiful Pearl), called by the Sisters "Baobei" (Precious Child) was brought to the monastery when she was only ten days old. She shared with us this story of how she came to the monastery.
Her mother died a few days after she was born, and her twin brother also died. Her grandmother, thinking the young Mei Chu was also close to death, put her out in a container in the family garbage one night. The next morning, the baby was still alive, so she brought her in, fed her some rice milk with water, but despaired that she had no milk for the baby. A woman in the village worked for the Benedictine Sisters at the mission orphanage, and she took little Baobei to the Sisters. Sister Annelda Wahl tube-fed the infant for the first two months because she was so weak.
Baobei grew to be a strong young girl. Two photos in the exhibit show her laughing with friends. When she was five, however, she had to return to her family, as the orphanage didn't care for older children. She went between family members, but finally was returned to the orphanage at age seven because there was no one in the family who could care for her. The Sisters needed to place her in an adoptive family or she would end up sold to a brothel.
It was the brother of Annelda Wahl who adopted Baobei, and she became Ellen Wahl. Ellen was raised in Minnesota and attended one year of college at the College of Saint Benedict. Over the years she reconnected with Pat Gandolfo and visited Sister Glenore Riedner, who had also been on mission at the orphanage when she was there. She has also traveled back to Taiwan, where she has visited the village where she was born and St. Benedict Monastery. Looking at the photos she pointed to Annie, Josie and other children who were her playmates all those years ago. A few others were also adopted by American families.
Ellen enjoyed the exhibit and learning about the history of the mission to Taiwan, including the early years in China. It gave even more background to her own eventful connection to the monastery.
photos: Pat Gandolfo and Ellen Wahl in front of the museum display on Taiwan. Ellen Wahl points out one of the children in a photo that is part of the exhibit.
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