Taitung has bid farewell to Ernst Gassner, a Catholic priest who served the county for almost 60 years. Locals from around Taitung gathered at the airport on Tuesday to send him off to his native Switzerland where he will retire. Throughout his life in Taiwan, the 85-year-old spearheaded many community projects, ranging from clearing land for rice fields to founding a kindergarten.
“I will never forget Taiwan and the lovely Taitung. This is my home. I will always miss everyone. I will pray for everyone even when I am in Switzerland. May God bless Taiwan and protect every citizen.” Rev. Ernst Gassner said.
After arriving in Taiwan in September 1964, Rev. Ernst Gassner devoted nearly 60 years to Taitung. He focused on localizing preaching and also was committed to social assistance and preschool education. He is versed in many languages including Mandarin, Amis, Bunun and Dawu.
Due to his extensive knowledge in indigenous languages, he served in Taitung City, Luye, Chenggong, Donghe, Yiwan, Taiyuan, Dulan, Orchid Island and other villages on the east coast.
One of Rev. Ernst Gassner’s major accomplishments was creating a credit union to assist ingenious people in Luye in 1967. In 1968, he repaired the embankment in Baohua. In addition, he established Rose Kindergarten in Luye in 1985. In 2003, Rev. Ernst Gassner became an “Honorary County Citizen of Taitung County.” In 2017, he obtained a National Identification Card of the Republic of China and became a Taiwanese citizen. However, because Rev. Ernst Gassner has gotten older and suffers from chronic illness, he decided to return to his hometown in Switzerland for treatment.
Early in the morning on November 16, Taitung airport was flooded with many church members who came to send him off. Some of the church members from Orchid Island had traveled to Taitung the day before to meet Rev. Ernst Gassner for the very last time. A special farewell concert was also held to express gratitude to Rev. Ernst Gassner.
Rev. Ernst Gassner is like a kind father!” a county councilor and church members said. Rev. Ernst Gassner went to Orchid Island to preach and always rode a scooter to the churches around the community. In addition to preaching the gospel, the priest also taught us how to be a kind-hearted person. Locals say they’ll long remember the selfless priest, who brought warmth and comfort to his adopted home.