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On January 28, 1909, in the diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a baby boy was born in the family of Emil F. Kupfer, who was a German in origin and made a living as a broker of estate. The boy was named after William F. Kupfer (Chinese: 蔡文興 ). His mother was from Ireland and raised 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls. The family was pious in faith and sufficient in finance.

William played Saxophone in the school band and he liked drama performance. One time when he studied at St. Anthony Academy, without the knowing of the family, he performed on stage in a theater, wearing his Grandpa’s cap and holding his Dad’s stick, imitating a comedian. Among the audience were his uncles and aunties, who became dumbfounded and speechless, when they realized it was William. He also wrote a script for a play in which he invited his sister to join to raise fund for a church in Long Island in New York.

Wishing to be a missionary since childhood, William entered Maryknoll Missioners in September, 1928, though contrary to the will of his father who wanted him to serve in his own home land. This is the first significant decision in the life of William, who finally obtained his father’s approval and blessing through patience and providence.

In July 1933, after ordination, Fr. William arrived in China; he studied Cantonese and evangelized in the area of Guanxi where he stayed for 14 years and baptized 1,500 people.

 In 1951, the Holy Father Pius XII appointed him the Apostolic Prefect of Taichung, to which he responded, “Regarding all the appointments in my life, I used to express myself to the Superior that I may not be the best candidate or that I probably ought not to accept it. However, if it is apparently God’s will, I will not disobey it. I am happy with my life and I never doubt my vocation of being a priest and missionary. Whatever task is assigned to me, I always pray unceasingly and do my best to fulfill it.”

 Apostolic Prefecture of Taichung geographically included Taichung City, Taichung Hsien, Changhua Hsien and Nantou Hsien, with the population of 3 priests, 5 parishes, 3,000 Catholics and 1,500,000 non-Christians.

In 1962, Apostolic Prefecture of Taichung was elevated to become Diocese of Taichung and Most Rev. William F. Kupfer was appointed the first bishop of Taichung Diocese. As a leader of a newly established missionary area, Most Rev. William Kupfer quoted from the Gospel according to Mark in his coat of arms to be his motto, “UT OMNES COGNOSCANT SALVATOREM MUNDI”.

e with people and build good relationships. In 1952, Most Rev. William F. Kupfer opened up a Maryknoll Language Service Center. He commanded each Maryknoll priest to study Taiwanese for 1 year before he was assigned to a parish as an assistant. Most Rev. William F. Kupfer himself even studied and practiced Taiwanese every day. He therefore spoke the language so fluently that until his retirement he had no language barrier with the local people.

In order to keenly spread the Good News, Most Rev. William F. Kupfer established the Maryknoll Language Service Center to train the missionaries to preach in Taiwanese; he set up the Catechistical School to educate the catechists so that they could assist foreign priests in pastoral ministries; he instituted seminaries to form local priests; finally he founded Roman Catholic Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to serve the local church so as to help the Catholic Church be rooted in Taiwan.


Most Rev. William F. Kupfer spoke Taiwanese and liked to work with the Taiwanese; an American missionary and the Taiwanese became friends in Christ.  In 1970, after the Second Vatican Council, the Church started a long-term program of Refreshing our Faith which aimed to train every adult faithful to become the catechist of their children. Most Rev. William F. Kupfer said, “The program started in 1970 is an on-going program.”

 In 1976, grounded on the basis of Refreshing our Faith Program, he successfully inaugurated in Taichung Diocese the Pastoral Council in 41 parishes, which was to train the faithful to become apostles of evangelization. Most Rev. William F. Kupfer’s pedagogy of mission might not be able to apply to all the other dioceses, yet he pioneered the Pastoral Council in Taiwan, steering towards self-evangelization, self-support and self-governance.

Only through self-support of the parish and the diocese could the message of the Gospel be rooted in the local church. The goal of self-support was achieved little by little, one step after another. Most Rev. William F. Kupfer even solicited money from his friends and relatives in the homeland to make up for the shortage.

 He made the best use of the resources available; for example, he requested the parish priests in the mountainous churches to look for potential parishioners to join the Indigenous Medical Personnel Education Program of the government. After graduation those students returned to where they were from to serve the sick and to participate in the church activities.

With regard to social welfare in evangelization, Most Rev. William F. Kupfer initiated distribution of flour to the poor; then he pushed to organize Credit Unions, which eventually helped to train several leaders in the church who became the trainers of pastoral leadership.

In the midst of difficulties in evangelization,
Most Rev. William F. Kupfer introduced some creative strategies:


  1. To assign a religious Sister in charge of pastoral ministries: In Ershui, Lukang, Tsaotun, to name a few, Sisters took charge of parishes and collaborated with the faithful;
  2. To initiate Parishes Deanery in Changua: The joint parishes included Hohsing, Lotsu, Erhlin, Peitou, Hsichou and Chutang, which worked to:  1) plan cooperatively the schedule of the Masses as well as that of the other Sacraments of these parishes; 2) to train the leaders of the faithful; 3) to deepen the faith of the parishioners; and 4) to accentuate faith education and practice in order to mold a pastoral team of self-evangelization, self-support and self-governance;
  3. To experiment micro-church: Nantou Parish was chosen to be a model; the parish was grouped into 23 micro-churches; there was a leader in each group, who was nominated by the parishioners or the catechists and acted as a coordinator to collaborate with the Sisters to visit the faithful, to plan the prayer gatherings and to contact the students of elementary and high school levels to attend the catechism classes. The parish priest monthly gathered the Sisters and the catechists for the pastoral meeting and each one reported or shared their pastoral happenings and the minutes were filed. Thanks to the trust between the parish priest and the parishioners, the church was alive and dynamic;
  4. To encourage the faithful to be a contemplative in an active mission;
  5. To construct Benevolence Hall for the elderly retired women catechists: The land located at Tapu Road in Changhua was donated by American Maryknoll Sisters, the financial help was granted by the benefactors and Benevolence Hall was thus erected to house them as a nursing home.


Most Rev. William F. Kupfer served the Church in Taiwan for 35 years with endurance, simplicity and hard-work. He was a missionary who led a tranquil life without worldly desires. At retirement he said, “I am blessed by God. Though I am 78 years old, I am in good health and in high spirits as usual. I wish I could do more for people. The reason why problems arise in evangelization is that we overestimate our talents and rely on our own. I always tell myself I am not a capable man; I only do my best to fulfill the task given to me by God. Through God’s grace, at least I did something for the Church.”

On November 20, 1986, Most Rev. William F. Kupfer retired and returned to the United States of America. Because of the donation of two pieces of lot to the Church and the benefits from the widened road beside POPULORUM PROGRESSIO INSTITUTE, a big amount of donation tax and beneficial fee were charged by the government. Most Rev. William F. Kupfer loaned to pay the money and after he returned to the States he raised funds and collected the stipends from administering the Sacraments in order to pay the loan little by little, which took him longer than he had expected. Only until May 1988 did he pay off all the debts and start to commit himself to pastoral ministry and clinical chaplaincy in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In 1993, the local parishioners held a celebration for his 60th sacerdotal anniversary. Happily he said, “I am proud to be a priest and missionary all the days of my life. I thank you for giving me a chance to serve you. Pastoral ministry has been one of my favorite missions.” “Thanks be to God,” he continued, “at the age of 84, I am still healthy to do the task of clinical chaplaincy which I enjoy. I am deeply moved by the faith of the patients. My greatest joy is that I can encourage and console the patients and their families through prayers.”

In 1996, Most Rev. William F. Kupfer felt his health was declining and he couldn’t drive alone anymore so he moved to St. Teresa’s Residence, the nursing home of Maryknoll Missioners. He entered into eternal repose on January 2, 1998.

His successor Most Rev. Joseph Wang Yu-Jung said, “Most Rev. William F. Kupfer devoted his whole life to the Church for the sake of evangelization to the Chinese people and laid the foundation of Taichung Diocese. His virtues and example win our admiration and inspire us to follow him.” A tribute by Rudyard Kipling can well depict Most Rev. William F. Kupfer like a warrior who stood stoutly to shed his blood to the Taiwanese Church until the last drop.


Oh East is East, and West is West, and never

The twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s

Great judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border,

Nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, tho’

They come from the end of the earth!

The tumult and the shouting dies-

The captains and the Kings depart-

Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,

A humble and contrite heart,

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget!

In this rapidly changing modern world, the 7,836 square kilometers diocese of Taichung encounters many challenges in her mission. The vision of Most Rev. William F. Kupfer, “UT OMNES COGNOSCANT SALVATOREM MUNDI,” can be achieved only by the united efforts of all the faithful in collaboration with people of good will so that the values of the Gospel can be rooted in the local church. Appointed by the Holy Father, Most Rev. William F. Kupfer for 35 years in Taichung Diocese had built a solid faith community. He left to the children of God unforgettable history and memory: he successfully raised local priests, built 41 parishes, and the number of the believers increased from 3,000 to 30,000. The Diocese is moving towards self-evangelization, self-governance and self-support.

The mentor is gone. The spiritual daughters of Most Rev. William F. Kupfer, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS, remember dearly this Papa who spoke Taiwanese, loved the Taiwanese Church and devoted himself wholeheartedly and selflessly to the mission.