St Joseph Middle School

Tsingtao, China

October 2, 1932


Dear Venerable Mother,


          My last letter to you was written on August fourteenth or around that date.  In the meantime we have received no news from you, but I can readily understand why you have had no time to write.  By this time, the American missions are, no doubt, in full swing and so are we.  Before I tell you about our school I want to tell you about our new missionaries.  So many humorous things have happened that I must tell you, at least, some of them.

          First of all I wish you could have been at the harbor when the Haradu Maru, on which they were sailing, arrived.  Perhaps you recall that we sailed on the same boat from Kobe to Tsingtao.  Everything was quite the same except that the cockroaches had tremendously increased during the past year.  There were so many in the cabins that they crawled into the Sisters’ trunks and some were carried out here.

          When the boat neared the wharf we saw no Sisters on deck, but soon we saw them peeping from the port holes.  Sister Turibia laughed and cried simultaneously.  I was quite concerned about getting their luggage through free from customs duty, but, as I told you in my last letter, we were permitted to pass through without the officers opening a trunk.

          Now I suppose you are wondering what the new Sisters think of China.  I have told them that each should write to you, but they are waiting a little to allow their impressions to adjust themselves.  Nevertheless, I trust that you will soon receive a long letter from each of the Sisters.

          August came and went bringing with it an intense and almost continual heat wave.  We had suffered considerably from the heat before the Sisters arrived, but after their coming we almost melted.  The rainy season which brought with it torrents last year was much more moderate this year.  Cloudy and foggy days followed by thunder showers at night for a period of about twelve days sum up almost the entire rainy season this year.  Nevertheless the humidity was rather annoying.  In our basement the water dripped from the walls and the floor was quite wet during this time.  The season came early in July, consequently, the new Sisters saw nothing of it.  I was glad that they were spared of going through a rainy season such as we passed through in our experiences last year.  Gradually they will harden to these inconveniences.  In fact Sister Turibia told me today that a shell is growing around her already.

          Two days after the Sisters arrived I received notice from the Bureau of Education to the effect that we would have some difficulties in opening in three weeks.  We had one hot struggle which ended in a telegram from Nanking granting us permission to open.  Every time the Bureau gets too wise for me I say, “All I can do is send a cable America and tell them what you are doing here.”  That makes them very tame and I usually get my way.  In another letter I will tell you all about what they wanted.  The Sisters are growing accustomed to this super official attitude of China.

          I said before that I was going to tell you some of the humorous things that have happened.  Shortly after the Sisters arrived there was an article in the English paper in which was described how a foreigner trained his servants in China.  This man had majored in English at the University and, consequently, he was well versed in English poetry.  Whenever a servant broke a dish or did anything else wrong, this man quoted Shakespeare in a loud, stern and severe tone of voice.  It worked like magic for he had little trouble after that.  Now, Sister Turibia thought she would try this method for she thought it was a very good means of getting her idea across quickly.  One day the servant girl pulled the ash box from the stove and left it standing directly in front of the stove.  Sister came to the stove and saw the box in her way.  She turned to the girl and said in a deep, loud tone “Louisa, --I--am--thy--father’s ghost.”  The girl dropped everything she had in her hands and ran out of the kitchen screaming:  “You frighten me to death.”  The ash box never stands before the stove anymore.

          One day Sister Lucilla, Sister Florida and Sister Turibia went to the new convent of the Steyl Sisters near the ocean.  t was Sister Lucilla and Sister Turibia’s first rickshaw rides.  After they had reached the place and paid the man both of the Sisters actually wept out of pity for the poor coolies who pulled the rickshaws,  We told them that after they would be here for some time they would be glad if they could give the collie some work.

          Sister Chrysantha and I went out one day in rickshaws and Sister laughed all the way.  She thought everybody was looking at her.  I remember I felt the same way when I rode in one for the first time.  The Sisters enjoy seeing those matschas, which are regular horse carriages of a 1492 type.  If one of those would go through the streets of an American city, I am sure it would create a great amount of laughter.

          Last Sunday they saw a funeral pass by.  I did not see it, but judging from their description of it, it must have been a rather gorgeous one.  Sister Turibia was most interested in the incense burner and the bag pipers.

          I am not going to tell you any more about what they are enjoying for I will leave it for them to tell you.  There is surely enough for amusement, but they have discovered where the cross lies in the foreign mission field.  A limited circle, a strange people, a foreign language, apparent unappreciation on the part of those for whom you are giving the best that is in you are a few of the things that force you to realize that your mission cross is not a symbol, but a reality.  I did not mention homesickness, but they have experienced enough of that to know what it means to be 8,000 miles from home.


October 15, 1932


          It has been nearly two weeks since I started this letter and I feel rather ashamed for not having finished it sooner.

          Now I am going to tell you about our present school term.  We gave our entrance examinations on August nineteenth.  There were one hundred eighty-six applications for examinations.  Well, these girls came to write and the number was decreased.  I should have said that the one hundred eighty-six included about sixty of our old girls who were not obliged to write an entrance examination.  When all was settled our enrollment totaled one hundred forty-five.  Of this number forty-seven students are in the dormitory.  In English, Chinese, and Mathematics the Junior II class is in two sections while the Junior I class is in two sections for all subjects for their are fifty-seven girls in the entire class.  Junior III increased from twenty-two to thirty-six.  Our Senior I class has only twelve, some of which are new and others are our old girls.

          The dormitory girls require much supervision and both Sisters Chrysantha and Lucilla have already experienced what it means to manage Chinese girls.  Sisters Lucilla, Chrysantha, Florida, and Callista take turns in managing the girls.  We have made a set of rules for study, play, sleeping and eating.  Last year we tried out various methods of general supervision and now we know what works best to the accomplishment of our aim, the training of the girls.  The new Sisters have surely discovered that patience is the heroic virtue here in China.  We who have been there one year are still praying for patience and I really believe that I will have to pray for it until I draw my last breath.  In spite of the fact that none of us have reached the degree of patience required, nevertheless, the Sisters are doing good work with the girls.  Many parents have placed their daughters in our school chiefly because they know they will be closely supervised.

          I know you are anxious to know just what the sisters are teaching.  Sister Lucilla teaches one class of English I and one class of English II.  Then she teaches Art to Junior I, Junior II and Senior I besides giving some private assistance to a few girls who are back in English.  Sister Chrysantha teaches English I, English II and Senior I English.  Sister Chrysantha teaches English I, English II and Senior I English.  Sister also teaches Biology to the Senior I girls.  The Bureau wishes that as many subjects as possible be taught in English in the Senior Middle School.  They particularly desire to have the mathematics and sciences in English for the text books for these subjects were originally written in English or some European language and the Chinese have only translated foreign texts in these subjects.  Some of the terminology is universal and cannot be translated into Chinese characters, consequently, it is very difficult to secure suitable Chinese textbooks, in fact it is impossible.  When the Middle School Students write entrance examinations for any Chinese University they must write the examinations for these subjects in English.  As far as we are concerned, it is rather a desirable condition for this allows us Sisters to teach more subjects and keeps down the teaching budget.  We are not taking the Senior Mathematics for the present year, for I thought the Sisters had enough to do.  I would have taught it myself but my piano puils increased to the extent that it was impossible for me to have undertaken more than I now have.  Sister Turibia teaches six hours of cooking each week besides all her other work of supervision.  Sister Callista teaches twelve hours of sewing each week and does the sewing for the entire house, and supervises the cleaning of the dormitories and bathrooms.  Sister Florida teaches English II and six hours of Art in our school and five hours of English I in the Boys’ Middle School which Bishop Weig opened in September.  As yet, they have no Middle School building, but have begun the first class in their Primary Boys’ School building.  The Brothers who have charge of this school were trained in French and not in English, consequently, they had no one to teach their English.  Brother Weig was quite uneasy about the English, for His Excellency was desirous to have the English for his Boys’ School as good as that of his Girls’ School.  I thought we could help them out for this first year, at least, for I knew you would not object to our helping along in the good cause.  Sister enjoys her class very much.  The boys are about the size and age of seventh grade American boys.  There are a few overage, such as you find in all Chinese schools.

          Now I will tell you what I am doing.  There is a course required in the Senior Middle School which is called “Philosophy of Life.”  It is hard telling what the students are taught in other Chinese schools in a subject which such a broad title as that.  I suppose the matter conveyed to girls and boys ranks from communism back to the teachings of Confucius.  Here is what I am doing for I took charge of this subject.  I worked out a plan according to which I teach the girls the Ethics based upon the principles of Christianity, and if these girls do not save their souls I feel it won’t be my fault after I have finished this course with them.  It is taught for two hours each week.  Then I have my school music classes five hours each week, that is a total of five hours for all the groups.

          The piano pupils have increased to twenty-seven which means fifty-four half hours each week.  There is just one difficulty about it -- I cannot take any during school hours.  There are two afternoons when I can get some of them during their study periods, but study periods are so scarce around here that they do not help me very much.  I just could not get along with only one piano so I bought a used piano from a private family for $270 Mex.  It is not so good, but it will do for some years for the boarders to practice on.  There are nineteen of the girls who use the school pianos for practice.  I am going to have them pay a little rent each month and that will help me pay for that piano.  I am hoping that next summer when Father Klink comes to the Orient there will be one musician on the mission trail that leads to the ripe harvest awaiting her here.

          I just know you are anxiously awaiting to hear what we are doing with this Chinese language out here.  Well, thank God, I can give you a good report this year.  Last year it was absolutely impossible under the circumstances, nevertheless, we learned much without study for now we get along fairly well in all ordinary conversation.  For the present year we have an excellent Chinese teacher who teaches daily three hours of literature and composition in our school and also teaches us.  At eight o’clock in the morning he teaches Sister Callista and Sister Florida.  I did not join their class for they know more reading than I, since they had studied a great number of characters before they came here.  I did not want to retard them so I began character study with our new Sisters.  We have class daily at 1:00 pm and each evening after supper we four study together.  Since I know most of the words from sound it helps along in our study.  I wish you could hear us.  We remain on the basement floor for this study period and do we ever study loud.  You actually must study aloud or you cannot get the correct sounds.  It would be just like trying to learn to sing a song by keeping silent.  We are all enjoying it very much and how we wish you could be here to see us in our work.  Sometimes when we are in the midst of something I stop suddenly and say: “Don’t you wish Ven. Mother could see us here now?”  At any rate, we are getting our Chinese and when we can write well we will all write you a short Chinese letter.  Mr. Lien, our teacher, is very interested in us.


October 16, 1932


          Your long letter of September fifteenth reached us two days ago.  It was heartily welcomed by all.  You can imagine how our new missionaries were anxiously waiting for that first letter from home.

          May God reward you for having ordered the books and other supplies for us.


October 23, 1932


          This is still the “land of interruptions” for me.  Now I am beginning to get something done besides taking care of my music pupils and answer calls, nevertheless, it is difficult to finish a letter in one period of time.  That you can see for yourself when you look at the succession of dates on this letter.

          To return to your letter of September fifteenth, I must repeat, “May God reward you for the books, publications, and supplies you are sending us.”  The English books ordered from Ginn and Company have already reached us.  Sister Chrysantha almost danced a jig for joy when they came.  These books will be used by Sister’s Senior I class.  We are all so happy about everything you are sending that I really cannot tell you all lest this letter be delayed again.

          I really think that I must close this letter and write again, or rather start again after a few days.  But I must tell you that I was very glad to read in your letter that you were both interested in and pleased with my account of our trip.  The copy came and we are wondering whether it would be possible for us to have more copies.  His Excellency, Bishop Weig, asked me to give him a copy, for when we returned I did not have time to tell him much about what we had seen.  I told him that I would write an account of it.  I am writing the number on the extra slip which I am enclosing.  Concerning the Sisters enjoying the account, I must say i am very happy for I surely need their prayers in return.  I feel that many a supplication has gone to Heaven from the other side of the pond on our behalf.

          The new Sisters have asked me to answer your question about whether or not they were seasick, but since there is an English boat now in harbor which will soon sail for Shanghai, I will ask them for the details and discuss it in my next letter.  Will you, please, tell Sister Immaculate that the Sisters are wondering whether or not she would like to know?

          Sending you love and kind regards from your happy workers so far away and thanking you for your solicitous care for us we are, in Christ the King.


Your missionaries,

per Sr. M. Eustella, O.S.F.