TAIPEI (CNA) – It was one of the highlights of the 2017 National Day celebration in Taiwan on Tuesday – a new citizen, who has served Taiwan for more than half of one century, leading the public in singing the national anthem.
Brendan O’Connell (甘惠忠), an American Catholic priest who has lived and served in Taiwan for 54 years and obtained a national ID card in January, joined a group of elementary school students in singing the anthem at 10 a.m. to open the Double Ten Day celebrations under sunny skies in front of the Presidential Office.
Before going on stage Tuesday, O’Connell was worried he would mess up his mission after warning of not having a good voice, but he said he also felt proud and happy to have the honor to be the lead singer of the anthem for the Republic of China’s 106th birthday.
The 81-year-old priest was the first person to be naturalized as an R.O.C. citizen without having to renounce his original citizenship, which became possible after the Nationality Act was amended at the end of 2016.
0’Connell was born in 1936 in the United States and was dispatched by the Catholic Maryknoll Fathers to Taiwan in 1963.
Because his younger sister has Down’s syndrome, O’Connell was determined to devote himself to special education and early intervention for children by setting up special education institutions in Tainan.
In 1988, he established the St. Theresa Opportunity Center in Tainan, which provides day care services for children and adults with mental or physical disabilities.
In 1996, he set up the Bethlehem Foundation, which mainly serves children with developmental delays under the age of six.
O’Connell has spent more than half of his life in Taiwan and sees the country as his home. He has said he hoped to live to 100 to do more for Taiwan. •
By Ku Chuan, Y.F. Low and Frances Huang