TAIPEI (CNA) — Catholic priest Brendan O’Connell (甘惠忠), founder of the Bethlehem Foundation who devoted most of his life to charitable works in Taiwan, died in New York Thursday aged 84.
“Our much respected Father O’Connell died this morning and is now resting in God’s love. We will miss him and continue with the task that he left us. We hereby tell God that we will bravely move on and do what he would want us to do to accomplish his mission,” the foundation said in a post on Facebook.
According to Tainan-based Bethlehem Foundation Executive Secretary Chen Cheng-lin (陳正霖), O’Connell had lived in the U.S. in recent years due to health problems.
He last came to Taiwan in 2018 to attend the opening of the foundation’s Infant Developmental Center Merciful Mother Kindergarten, though the foundation made regular phone calls and kept in touch with him. Chen said.
O’Connell came to Taiwan in 1963 and started to help Taiwanese children with special needs in Miaoli County. He began to serve in Tainan in 1976 working at several mental health rehabilitation centers and established the Bethlehem Foundation in 1996.
In 2017, O’Connell received a national identification card from then Premier Lin Chuan (林全), becoming the first foreign national to obtain Republic of China (ROC) citizenship without having to renounce his original citizenship following an amendment to the Nationality Act at the end of the previous year.