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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
June 7, 1996     The Message
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June 7, 1996
 

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana "' 3 ther Robert Green easage staff writer Maryknoll Father Green closes his eyes, talk about his life's sees a place in world that few Americans about. He lived in during the Japanese in- in 1937, and he just barely -- the eover in 1949. adult years as a Maryknoll were far removed childhood, spent in )r his early adult years Seminary. .Was a young seminarian, 'iocese of Indi- at St. Meinrad, when up his courage ph E. Rit- permission to leave and the Maryknoll semi- the good Lord was to the missions, be- about China all Would ve lost d but one to hang to get ssed ent. es j. Kamuf I missionary from Jasper remembers years in China After training with the Mary- knoll Fathers, he and his class- mates were given their assign- ments. "We were all in the refectory waiting. There were two big missions in China. Names were called, and I was beginning to wonder if I would be assigned to stay back and work in the seminary." The last name called was his; he was as- signed to the newly-formed Maryknoll mission in South China. "Boy, was I happy! I got my wish." He left immediately for Asia. His first job was to learn the South Mandarin dialect. "I had to learn the language because I had to preach the Gospel." He studied six hours a day with a private tutor. "It was aw- fully hard. The language is tonal and there are four main tones. I spent weeks learning the tones. The tones become a part of you. Finally, you would get the rhythm, and then they would give you the words." His first assignment was to an area on the side of a mountain called Everlasting Happiness. "I was assigned to work with an- other priest, but he soon became ill. I was 50 miles from any- where, so I really had to learn the language. I had to eat, and nobody there spoke English." His entry into the Chinese community was his medical bag. "We received quite a bit of meal- ical training and there were no foreign-trained doctors there. We were able to do a lot of good by setting up medical clinics. "The people, at first, didn't trust you. But there were only herb doctors there. Over and over, the herb doctor would tell their patients, You are going to die,' and someone in the family "1 always wanted to be a lawyer... Brescia College gave me that opportunity, while providing direction for a life." Compare Our CI Rate.,, can provide you with a high-quality education. re Small and taught by outstanding faculty. Brescia offers and 17 minors in its bachelor's degree programs. .=ritage can help you develop as a well-educated and ready for the challenges of the 21 st century. 717 Frederica Owensboro, KY 42301 would suggest taking the sick person tothe foreign doctor. We were able to cure that person, es- pecially many children. "The family would then invite us to their home for a meal. The next step would be to ask the family to invite the neighbors into their homes. I would show movies and tell why I came there. "Some wanted to know more, and after several months, I would baptize them." Father Green began his work in China just as the war with Japan was building up. He ar- rived in Shanghai as the Japanese were making their first attack on that city's harbor. Later, while he was working in a walled city, Japanese forces in- vaded. He and two others left by the south gate as the Japanese entered the town's north gate. "They were blowing up the air- port, but the American consul had a plane and we were taken to western China." After a brief visit home to Indiana, he was re- assigned to a place called Mu- tual Peace. It wasn't an appropriate title for what was to come. After the end of World War II, the communists invaded the area. At first, "we mutually ex- isted. Then, they put me under house arrest. I spent a year in solitary confinement, and two- and-a-half years in prison." He was confined to the rectory, then the church building was used as a prison. Many prisoners were kept in stocks, and Father Green watched from his window as over 70 people were executed. "They put me in the sacristy, with just enough room to lie down." While he spent a lot of time "hoping and praying," there were also many days "with no hope," especially the day he was put in front of a six-man firing squad. "They wanted me to con- fess that I wasn't a priest and ] couldn't do that." He spent his days under guard, without even a rosary or his belt. He found some broken matchsticks and used them to count out his daily rosary. "They wouldn't let me kneel, but I had 10 matchsticks. I would say the Hail Mary and move one match- stick. "There were guards above me watching and they would ask what I was doing. I would say, 'I'm thinking." The one enduring thought that sustained him throughout his FDIC insured to $100,000 6.0000 2-year Minimum 6.00% lmercst deposit rate $5,000 "Annual Percentage yield (AP -- Intecest cannot rema on debesoeciod payout of itece is requir Ea 'h- drawal may not be permKI, Names ot creat ssuets are avaifaJ on request. Effecve ,13R6, THOMAS A. RUDER 3000 E. Morgan Ave, 473-0225 EdwardJone00 i i FATHER ROBERT GREEN imprisonment was the thought of the Blessed Sacrament that he had hidden in the rectory. "It was in an iron box, covered with tiles, and I would pray to our Blessed Mother, 'Dear Lady, if those guards find your son it would be terrible. All I pray for is one minute in my room.'" He watched as those around him were brainwashed, and he saw many prisoners go insane. "I had to think of fire fighting fire. Those men were trained to break you, but I worried about the Blessed Sacrament." During Holy Week, a trial was held to determine his crime. There were bright lights focused on him day and night, "all the time," he remembers. Then, on Easter Sunday, he learned that he was to be executed. Suddenly, he received the news that Chairman Mao Zedon "had given me a worse sentence. I was to be expelled from their great country." The next morning, he asked the five soldiers who were guard- ing him ifhe could briefly return to the rectory. "I fold them I wanted my stole." While they were there, the guards began looking at a crucifix hanging on the wall. One guard explained that "in America, this is what they worship." That brief distraction was all Father Green needed. He quickly .11 i i i ii i i opened the hidden box and con- sumed the Host. "They thought I had taken poison and they beat me, but I didn't care anymore. That was all I wanted." He was taken by bus to a larger city, and placed on display in a bamboo cage, before board- ing a train for Hong Kong. "Then, I was out, I was free." He says that saving the Blessed Sacrament became the all-consuming passion during his imprisonment: "It was the big thing with me. ] would have lost my mind but I had one thing to hang onto, to get the Blessed Sacrament7 He says he has forgiven his tormentors, because "it wasn't the people, it was the system." He traveled back into China a few years ago. His forged papers listed him as a retired professor. "We brought in bags of medicine and candy for the children. I was scared to death, but there were no problems." Today, Father Green does de- velopment work for the Mary- knoll Fathers. He is currently visiting Holy Family Church in Jasper. Father Robert Green will cele- brate his 85th birthday on June 12. Birthday cards may be mailed to him at Holy Family Church, 950 E. Church Avenue, Jasper IN 47546.3797. i DRE/Pastoral Ministry Position Sacred Heart Church, Vincennes, IN Sacred Heart Church, a 580 family parish in historic Vincennes, IN is seeking a full-time person for ministry. Responsibilities include being Director of Religious Education for pre-school through high school, sacramental programs, Christian Initiation of Adults and Children, and Pastoral Ministry. A degree in Religious Studies and Ministry (and experience) is preferred. Please send rsums to: Sacred Heart Church 2004 N. Second St. Vincennes, IN 47591 812882-8382 ii I ii m . i I I iii _