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American nun calls herself a real Taiwanese after getting ID card

Sister Mary Paul Watts receives a Taiwanese ID card nearly 60 years after arriving in Taiwan

Sister Mary Paul Watts (華淑芳. front center)

Sister Mary Paul Watts (華淑芳. front center) (CNA photo)

Taipei, July 10 -- Sister Mary Paul Watts (華淑芳) received a Taiwanese ID card on Monday, nearly 60 years after she came to serve the people of Taiwan from the United States.

"I love Taiwan very much," said Sister Watts at a ceremony at the St. Martin De Porres Hospital in Chiayi, a city of 269,000 in the southern part of the country.

There she received a naturalization certificate from Deputy Interior Minister Chiu Chang-yueh (邱昌嶽) and the ID card from Chiayi Mayor Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲).

The 85-year-old sister called herself "a real Taiwanese, Chiayi citizen." "No one loves Taiwan more than I," she said in expressing thanks to the government to let her become a Taiwanese.

Watts came to Taiwan from her home state of Illinois in 1958. A medical school graduate, she began to provide medical services in Meishan, a rural township in Chiayi County, soon after her arrival. A few months later she joined a local group of Catholic sisters, in which she took her vows to be a nun.

Realizing that there was a lack of medical resources in remote mountainous areas, Sister Watts set up a clinic in Meishan, which was then relocated to Chiayi City before it was upgraded into St. Martin De Porres Hospital in 1965. She is now the hospital's chairwoman.

Sister Watts once explained her motivation for opening a hospital in the Chiayi area, which lacked medical resources, as the sound of a crying mother who had just lost her young child.

The mother had traveled two to three hours on a public bus from Chiayi's coastal area to her clinic, carrying her under one-year-old child who was suffering from a high fever, but the infant died upon their arrival, Sister Watts said on a previous occasion.

In thanks for her long-term contributions to the country, the Ministry of the Interior granted Sister Watts permanent residency in 2011. One year later, she was honored with a medical contribution award.

During Monday's ceremony, Chiu praised Sister Watts for helping bring medical devices and supplies from the United States to Taiwan in the 1950s and often traveling deep into remote mountainous and coastal areas in southern Taiwan to offer medical services and public hygiene education in the 1960s.

The American sister helped improve the health and living environment of local residents, the official said.

Sister Watts is one of three foreign missionaries to whom the Taiwan government decided in June to grant citizenship on the grounds of their extraordinary contribution to the country.