Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan has held a memorial Mass for the late Madame Chiang Soong May-ling, an influential woman in modern Chinese history who once chaired the university´s board of trustees.
The Mass for the "eternal first lady," as she was called in Taiwan, was celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Ti-Kang of Taipei, the university´s chancellor, at Immaculate Conception Church inside the campus Oct. 29.
Chiang, a Christian, was the wife of General Chiang Kai-shek, who ruled Taiwan as head of the Nationalist Party from 1948 until his death in 1975. Taiwan was all that effectively remained of the Republic of China after the Nationalist government fled advancing communist forces in 1949.
Madame Chiang died Oct. 24 at age 106 in New York, the United States. She took up residence there in 1975 after her husband´s death.
At the memorial Mass for her, Jesuit Father Mark Fang Chih-jung, retired professor of religious studies at Fu Jen, delivered the homily.
Father Fang, who met the former first lady several times, told UCA News Oct. 30 that "the mother of the nation" was "a good model" for Christian women.
University president John Lee Ning-yuean and other representatives presented flowers and gifts at the memorial as a sign of respect for Chiang, who for a quarter century was the university´s honorary board chairperson. The church hall was decorated with white lilies.
Chiang was honorary chairperson of Fu Jen 1967-1992, during the successive university presidencies of Cardinal Paul Yu-Pin of Nanking (Nanjing), who died in 1978 after living in Taiwan for many years, and now-retired Archbishop Stanislaus Lo-Kuang of Taipei.
According to Divine Word Father Paulino Suo Pao-lun, the first lady agreed to be the board chairperson on Cardinal Yu´s invitation.
Father Suo, who lives on the Fu Jen campus, told UCA on News Oct. 29 that Madame Chiang was a good friend of both Cardinal Yu and Archbishop Lo. The priest said that whenever Archbishop Lo visited the United States in the past, he would pay a private visit to Chiang.
Madame Chiang was brought up a Methodist. Her father, Charles Soong Yaoju, was a Methodist minister and businessman. She graduated from Wellesley College in the United States with the university´s highest academic distinction in 1917 and married Chiang Kai-shek 10 years later.
It was she who introduced her husband, who later became a Christian, to Western culture and Christianity. She served as her husband´s English translator, secretary and adviser, and was an influential propagandist for his Nationalist government.