The Reverend Delos "Bud" A. Humphrey, Jr. is not letting age, retirement and a hearing impairment slow him down. Blessed with a sharp mind, quick wit, and a heart devoted to selfless labor, this 78-year-old Maryknoller continues to serve his community with the same missionary zeal that got him started in Taiwan 52 years ago.
"Ever since I've been here, I've always been interested in migrants internal to Taiwan. In the early days - that's some 35 years ago - factories were springing up in a place called Houli. Accidents often happened there since (the laborers) were working in small, cramped places," says the silver-haired missionary.
"They also brought kids to the factory, and one kid lost a finger while working there. When I saw that, I felt I had to do something to help them, and I did."
Through the Institute for Social Action in China, Father Bud hooked up with a lawyer who drew up a document safeguarding the rights of occupational accident victims.
"If there was an accident, one referred to that document and got justice for the injured worker," he says.
Born in Rome, New York on October 18, 1927, Father Bud received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy in June 1949, his Master of Divinity in June 1953, and his Master of Arts degree in Theology in June 1954 at the Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, New York.
On June 12, 1954, he was ordained a priest in the Annunciation Chapel at the Maryknoll Sisters Motherhouse in Ossining. Following a six-week break, Father Bud and the Reverend Robert Baudhuin sailed on the freighter, Laura Maersk, to Taiwan where they were assigned to the Maryknoll Mission in Taichung.
"After language studies in Changhua and at our new Maryknoll Center House in Taichung, I was appointed assistant to Father Michael O'Connor, pastor of the Catholic mission in Tienchung from 1955 to 1956. The next year, I was transferred to the Mission in Nantou as assistant to Father Arthur Lacroix from 1956 to 1957. During these two busy and challenging years, we baptized more than 500 Catholics in each parish," Father Bud says.
From 1957 to 1960, he served as an assistant to the Reverend Patrick Donnelly in their Mission in Lotsu. He was also director of the Men's Catechist School of the Taichung Diocese.
"Together with Mr. Yeh Dung-ding and Father Paul Yang, we trained about 60 diocesan catechists for lowland and mountain missions," says the priest.
He later succeeded the Reverend Francis Daubert as pastor of the Catholic Mission in Wu-Jih Hsiang, Taichung County in 1961.
"Bishop William Kupfer wanted to make Nantun district of Taichung City the center of a new parish which would include Setun district and Wu-Jih Hsiang as outstations. At that time, there were only four Catholics in Nantun, but many people came forth to help. The new mission was growing quickly and I purchased land in Nantun and Setun to accommodate the expansion. Those happy days passed quickly and it was soon time for my next furlough," he says.
To Father Bud, learning is a never-ending process.
When he went on his second break in 1967, he took updating courses in theology at Manhattan College in the Bronx. (Father Bud received his Doctor of Ministry on June 4, 1983. - Ed.)
He returned to Taiwan in July 1967, and was assigned by Bishop Kupfer to take the Reverend Armand Jacques' place in Houli Hsiang from 1967 to 1970. Father Jacques had died of cancer.
"There were opportunities of a different kind in Houli. With our Catholics as volunteer teachers, we organized a night school for working youth, a parish credit union, and in a rapidly industrializing society, I became interested in labor issues," says Father Bud.
From 1972 to 1976, he was assigned to the Secretariat of the Chinese Bishops' Conference in Taipei as the Pastoral Commission and the Catechist Commission Executive Secretary. "I was a founding member of the Research Group of the Chinese Bishops' Conference, and for many years the publisher and occasional editor of the newsletter, ONE SPIRIT, which helped to build among the clergy and religious a unified approach to evangelization in Taiwan," he continues.
In 1992, Father Bud took a sabbatical leave for studies at Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii. This was in preparation for his next assignment: Teaching English in China.
"But my hearing was deteriorating rapidly. When an opportunity arose to work among Chinese immigrants in the Los Angeles archdiocese, I felt confident in accepting that new challenge," he says.
"However, the archdiocese had its own plan and accordingly, Cardinal Roger Mahony asked me to be the administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Monterey Park, California where, through team ministry, we established a special outreach in mission to Chinese people. I have to chuckle when I think of what that involved. 'All's well that ends well.'"
The mission, he says, is flourishing.
In 1995, Father Bud returned to Taiwan. "Retired" since mid-1997, the priest keeps a schedule that is as hectic as the ones kept by clergymen half his age.
"I am busy, happy, and involved in the ministry to overseas contract workers and various other helping ministries," he says.
"Because I have a very severe hearing impairment, my work in migrant ministry in Taiwan usually is limited to research and communication. I do case work only rarely. However, in Father Tony Salvania's migrants' shelter (in Taichung), I see OCWs who have been abused or victimized by unscrupulous employers."
Father Bud says he heard stories about suffering migrant workers and foreign wives during monthly pastoral theological reflection group meetings.
"When I concelebrate Sunday Mass, I see hundreds of Filipino workers and foreign brides at prayer, and I am deeply impressed by their goodness, gentleness, and fervor. Deep loneliness for their homeland and families is written on many of their faces," he adds.
To help migrants, Father Bud puts his brilliant mind to work.
"In our ministry to OCWs, we are challenged to oppose systemic evil and to change unjust structures. Therefore, we receive input from the Hope Workers' Center in Jhongli, and also from local sources and the Internet. I also distribute newspaper articles about migration that will help our group members in their work," he says.
"Most important perhaps is to encourage and support what our group is doing. All this research and communication is important so that working together we may know the issues and (assess) government policies that affect migrants."
Unknown to many, this kindhearted priest helped plant the seed that got the Ugnayan Migrant and Immigrant Center in Tantzu, Taichung County started.
"There would be no Ugnayan without Father Bud," says the Reverend Joy Tajonera, Ugnayan's founder and chaplain for migrants in Tantzu.
"He gave us NT$100,000 of his own money so that we could pay our rent. He has been a source of strength and inspiration to all of us."
Father Bud is more than happy to help.
In a letter that he sent to friends last Christmas, he wrote: "On October 30, 2005, I attended the blessing by Bishop Joseph Wang of the migrant center in Tantzu just outside and across the road from the Tantzu Export Processing Zone.
"There are about 4,000 Filipinos working inside TEPZ. The place Father Joyalito Tajonera rented is very small and the rent (US$1,000 per month) too high, but the outreach here is important and necessary. Joyalito borrows bigger places nearby for the Sunday masses. I am grateful for your gifts and prayers, your assistance to this and other important works."
Father Joy is just one of the many individuals who benefited from Father Bud's kindness and generosity. Father Tony Salvania of Taichung also got loads of help from the Maryknoller.
"Father Tony also has a center for migrants, and his old place looked like this (Tantzu center). He was jammed into his room. He had 13 people living there and they were gradually moving into his space. I said, 'Tony you can't live like this. Just find another place and I will see what I can do to help you finance it.' That's what happened. He moved into his current center three weeks later," Father Bud says.
The Maryknoll Society is also reaching out to Vietnamese brides and workers in Taiwan, he adds.
"I am happy because there are more people within Maryknoll who are doing this important ministry," he says. "We have to be with the people, and it's not only because we want to help those who are in need but to try and change the atmosphere. These people are our brothers and sisters."
A quarter of the local church in Taiwan are comprised of Filipinos.
"Just like local members of churches, they too should get the same kind of treatment, and that's what Father Joy is doing here with the Ugnayan center," says Father Bud.
To get a project like Ugnayan moving, one needs money, he continues.
"I can help (Father Joy) get started, and I hope he gets other benefactors," Father Bud says.
"The people of Taiwan are such good people - and they are so generous - that once they see there's something good being done, they would want to help too. That's the future direction for this place, and (Father Joy) is already getting some help."
Just like the thousands of Filipinos in Tantzu, Father Bud is rallying behind Father Joy's Ugnayan project.
"What Joyalito is doing is wonderful because he is right here where the people are, and he is not afraid to go ahead with his project. It's quite daring," he says.
"That's the way it is, and that's how you are able to do things. You have to trust God that He will bring good people to assist you."