The Chinese Chapel

St Luke's Retreat Centre is home to two chapels of which one is furnished with a beautifully carved wooden altar with Chinese figures from Taiwan.

In 1967 a Catholic priest called Fr Ignatius Ou imported the beautifully carven wooden altar from Taiwan which is now housed at St Luke’s Retreat Centre. 

Fr Ou was born in 1923 in the Hangzhou archdiocese in Zhejiang, China and entered the Seminary in 1946 to become a Catholic priest. In 1947 he was sent to Rome to study and he was ordained a priest in 1952. 

In 1954 at the invitation of the then-Bishop of Port Elizabeth, Bishop Hugh Boyle, Fr Ou came to Port Elizabeth to teach Mandarin at the Assumption Chinese College and to look after the spiritual welfare of the Chinese community of the diocese. 

With the help of the Port Elizabeth Diocese, Fr Ou acquired land in Sherlock Street, Central in 1960 and built a meeting place for the city’s Chinese Catholics. Next door to the land was also a small chapel which belonged to St Augustine’s parish. For this chapel Fr Ou imported the wooden altar from Taiwan in 1967.  

Fr Ou established the Port Elizabeth Chinese Catholic Association at this venue in 1976 when many Chinese families were forcibly relocated to Kabega Park due to Apartheid legislation. The Assumption Chinese College was also closed down. Fr Ou continued to run the Centre in Sherlock Street for more than 30 years. 

In the early 2000s Father Ou, who was already in his eighties, was brutally attacked in his home in Sherlock Street and subsequently moved to Nazareth House. The late Bishop Michael Coleman asked him to bring his carved alar and Chinese statues with him to the chapel at Nazareth House. Fr Ou died in 2018 at the age of 95 at Nazareth House. He is still lovingly remembered by the members of the Chinese Catholic community who get together every year in August at St Lukes’ Retreat Centre to commemorate the anniversary of Fr Ou’s passing.

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