TAIPEI, Taiwan – Jan. 24 was officially declared “Pius Liu, OFM, Day” in Holy Name Province to pay tribute to the friar – known for his joy, humility, and service – on his 100th birthday. The centenarian has been a Franciscan friar and member of HNP for 65 of these years.
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, carefully timed an email greeting to Pius so that he would receive it on the Sunday morning of his birthday in Taipei – which was Saturday afternoon in the U.S. Attached to the birthday greeting was a declaration that Kevin had sent to all friars throughout Holy Name Province announcing that Jan. 24 was Pius Liu Day.
The Provincial declaration stated, “On Jan. 24, the friars prayed the following petition: ‘Today, the friars of Holy Name Province rejoice in the life and example of Gospel-living that we have witnessed in our brother, Fr. Pius Liu, OFM, who celebrates 100 years of life. May he continue to radiate God’s joy to the people he serves as a humble son of St. Francis. We pray to the Lord.’”
In his email greeting to Pius, Kevin said, “Please know that you teach us by your Franciscan life and by the words of your wisdom that you share with us. I hope that all of us will become inspired by watching your powerful example.”
Pius replied, in an email to the Provincial Minister, “With the declaration and today’s greetings, though I feel not the slightest bit deserving, I nevertheless am very happy and very grateful. The birthday celebration was very beautiful.”
After a birthday greeting to Pius was posted on HNP’s Facebook page the morning of his birthday, more than 70 people added messages – and within a week, the Province’s Facebook post had garnered more than 300 likes and close to 100 comments directed to the centenarian.
Pius is the second member of Holy Name Province to reach his 100th birthday. The first was the late Emeric Szlezak, OFM, whose milestone was celebrated in December 2017.
Greetings from Around the World
Pius marked his 100th birthday in his usual style – with deep gratitude for his Franciscan life, and with humble acceptance of well-wishes, messages, prayers, and greetings from people around the world, including the Order’s Minister General.
“What an honor this day is for you, for the friars of your province, and for the worldwide fraternity,” Michael Perry, OFM, the leader of the Order of Friars Minor, said in a letter from the General Curia in Rome.
“It is your positive attitude and awareness of the unlimited love of God that has allowed you to be transformed into an effective and compassionate instrument of peace, joy, forgiveness, hope, and love. May God bless you with strong health, clear vision, and abiding awareness of the blessedness that surrounds you and fills your heart and your spirit with great joy,” the Minister General went on to say in the letter, which was sent to Pius a few days before his birthday and imparted a seraphic blessing to the centenarian.
Beyond Wildest Dreams
His big day began with a morning Mass with friends and former parishioners.
“Because of COVID-19, I had no desire or plan of any celebration. A Thanksgiving Mass with a few friends on my 100th birthday was beyond my wildest dreams. But there were about 120 people in attendance, including nine former parishioners,” said Pius.
“It was surely a dreamlike invitation of the kindness of Fr. Leo Chiang, pastor of St. Francis Church in Taipei. I thank the church where I celebrated the Mass – which is next to our friary like St. Francis Church is next door to the Provincial Office on West 31st Street,” he added.
Born in 1921 with the baptismal name John, Pius reflected on his 100th birthday on Facebook, saying that he had crossed the threshold of a century into a new century.
“Though a bit slow, it is a miracle that the actions are easy, the brain is clear, and I still celebrate Mass,” he wrote. “The loving invitation of Father Jiang Peiyu to hold a Thanksgiving Mass on my 100th birthday is a miracle. It is a miracle that we can get together during the pandemic of the COVID virus, especially from the Inner Lake and Taipei communities. My centennial year is full of wonders.”
Pius also spoke of the “wonderful grace” that God has given him. “I am very grateful to God for being fully mentally and physically alert throughout the whole Mass,” he said.
For more than 50 years, Pius has lived and worked in Taiwan. He officially retired in 2010, concluding his role as pastor at Our Lady of Assumption Church in Neihu. But he keeps active with spiritual, social, and physical activities.
In a February 2014 HNP Today article, Pius described his idea of retirement and his use of email and social media for sharing news and reflections. In the article, he observed, “the longer you live, the more you learn.”
Pius professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1956 after having become acquainted with the friars as a youth on mainland China, where he studied at the friar-run high school in Shashi. Holy Name Province friars served at the Shashi mission from 1933 to 1952.
“Pius was studying for the priesthood for Holy Name Province’s former mission territory in Shashi when World War II broke out and the subsequent Communist takeover of China occurred,” said historian Dominic Monti, OFM. “Since he knew he’d never be able to minister at home, as a young priest he decided to join his Franciscan mentors in Holy Name Province.”
Pius professed his final vows in 1959 in Western New York before Celsus Wheeler, OFM, Provincial Minister at that time. As a newly professed friar, he spent roughly 10 years in the United States – mainly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island – before moving to Asia. He last visited the United States in 2007.
After his birthday celebration, in an email to friends around the globe, Pius described three dreams of his 100-year life. Calling the first “The American Dream,” he wrote that in his youth, the idea of going to the United States seemed challenging.
“It was impossible physically, spiritually, financially, and academically for me to go to America,” he said. “However, in November 1954, [when coming to the United States] from London, England, I was met by Fr. Aloysius Reilly, Fr. Vianney McGrath, and Fr. Agnellus Kelly at the landing pier near St. Francis Church on West 31st Street in New York City. The three Shashi missionaries brought me to Chinatown for a delicious Chinese meal welcoming me to my ‘new home’ of America!”
Pius called his second dream the “Dream of Dotted Colorful Event,” recalling 15 summer assignments in New York for the HNP Franciscan Missionary Union – “which took me to various churches of 13 states” – 24 years of pastoral care at Our Lady of Assumption Church in Neihu, Taipei, and 49 years as chaplain saying Mass for the Sisters of the Sacred Heart RSCJ in Bali, Taipei City.
His third dream of “100 years young” was Fr. Leo’s kind invitation to be principal celebrant and homilist of the Thanksgiving Mass on his birthday. “It felt like an evident testimony of my relatively good health, mostly through self-care, daily activities, and enjoying life tremendously.”
Pius follows a daily routine that he says keeps his body and mind healthy, which includes a structured early-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule.
“For nearly 40 years, I have gone to bed between 7:30 and 8 p.m., and rise at 3:00 a.m., doing my exercise regularly by the amazing grace of God,” he said in an email to the HNP Communications Office.
On his birthday, Pius used Facebook to express his gratitude to all his well-wishers, saying: “Thanks to all my friends and relatives for your prayers and wishes for my birthday, may the God of heaven send you good health and peace and joy!”
He added, “My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior for God’s abundant and amazing graces making my three dreams and many other innumerous dreams come true.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Pius Liu Celebrates 99 Years” – March 10, 2020, HNP Today
- “Emeric Szlezak Dies at 101” — March 20, 2019, HNP Today
- “‘The Best Is Yet to Come’ — Advice from HNP’s Senior Friars” – Feb. 15, 2017, HNP Today