by Renée Domeier, OSB
Some years ago, I read an article titled “From Buddhist to Benedictine” about our Sister Telan Hu, born in 1932 into a devout Buddhist family in Taipei, Taiwan, as Jui-Chiao Hu. Her journey from Buddhism to her entry, not only to Catholicism, but to the United States and into our monastery was a journey of thousands of miles and the discovery that monastic spirituality superseded Buddhist traditions. She has been a sister for 65 years, speaks Taiwanese, Chinese, English and Japanese.
Prior to being hired by the College of St. Benedict, she taught English and biology at St. Boniface High School in Cold Spring. Then she returned to Taiwan for eight years where she taught English at three different universities. Her enthusiasm for teaching young people never dimmed: “Students keep me young and give me energy. I’m happy when I see them learning,” she said.
In 1968 when funds from the Hill Foundation facilitated the establishment of our Tri-college East Asian Studies program (CSB, SJU, SCSU), Telan was hired to teach Chinese, a position she kept for 35 years.
In 2001, when a scholarship was established in her honor by a group of faculty involved in the Asian Studies program, it was stated: “Sister Telan developed our Chinese language, literature, and academic skills courses and makes exceptional contributions to the community through a wide range of service activities,” not least of which was her teaching classes in Chinese cooking to students as well as adults, at a time when the indispensable wok was not readily available in the United States.
She is now retired, but as she recalls the past, her words are deeply moving: “My conversion from Buddhism to Catholicism and my entering Benedictine life is only by the mysterious ways in which God chooses and calls us to follow Him. For the rest of my life, I can only praise and thank God for His infinite compassion, mercy, goodness and love.”