1995-10-23 00:00:00

"We have to take more initiative and not just wait for hierarchical orders from above," says Mercedarian Sister Estefana Wei Wei, director of Rerum Novarum Center for Social Studies and Action in Taipei.

Sister Wei succeeded Jesuit Father Jose Ellacuria, the center founder, who turned over the position of director July 1 after 20 years.

Training leaders for labor-based communities and running social justice seminars for Christians and non-Christians alike are two of her major tasks.

The third is promoting the cause of women workers, to which the center has not devoted enough attention despite awareness of the need, Sister Wei said.

The center will continue to provide laborers with legal assistance in court and related counseling, she said. It handles some 300 to 500 cases a year. Labor education and formation of tribal communities are other ongoing tasks.

Migrant worker religious services and education at the center provide Masses, coffee break gatherings, Bible sharing and Chinese lessons on Sundays for about 200 migrant workers who attend regularly.

Rerum Novarum Bulletin, its Chinese-language bimonthly, draws public attention to labor issues and Christian faith. Center staff include a Buddhist, two Dominican nuns and a Catholic laywoman.

The center is sponsored by the Taiwan region of the Jesuit Chinese province and foreign mission groups. But Sister Wei thinks industrialized Taiwan should shoulder costs since the center helps resolve worker problems.

Directing the center is quite different from her former job teaching Catholic social thought, catechetics and faith formation at Fu Jen Catholic University, she observed.

Sister Wei, 44, studied sociology and social work in Taiwan and took further social studies at the East Asia Pastoral Institute in Manila.

The center began as the Labor Relations Office in January 1971, and became the Rerum Novarum Laborum Center 12 years later. It became known as the Rerum Novarum Center for Social Studies and Action Jan. 1.


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