Today — April 6 — St. Clement’s Episcopal Church commemorates Daniel G. C. Wu, priest and missionary.
In 1913, this item appeared in The Living Church magazine:
“On the morning of the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, in the chapel of the San Francisco mission for Chinese, the newly ordained priest in charge celebrated his first Eucharist. It was, perhaps, the first time a Chinese priest had offered the Holy Mysteries in the Chinese language on the Pacific coast. On the next Sunday, the communicants of the Oakland mission … [received] the Holy communion from their own priest.”
The newly ordained priest was Daniel Gee Ching Wu, the first Chinese American priest in the Episcopal Church.
Born in China in 1883 as Ng Gee Ching, he had moved to Hawaii as a child. There, he met Episcopal Deacon Emma Drant. He taught her Chinese in exchange for lessons in English. He converted to Christianity and took the name Daniel upon his baptism. He had also changed his surname to Wu, which was easier for Americans to pronounce.
Drant went to San Francisco in 1905 to begin mission work among Chinese Americans. There, she called together a worshiping community, the True Sunshine Episcopal Mission. Many San Francisco residents fled across the bay to Oakland after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Our Savior Episcopal Mission took root there. Drant called upon Wu to come from Hawaii and help support her efforts. Fr. Wu managed the work of these two missions while studying for ordination. When he was ordained in 1913, he became the Vicar both missions.
Ministry to the Chinese American community was difficult in light of anti-Asian sentiments in the early 20th Century. Fr. Wu worked the docks and ports of entry, seeking to assist new arrivals. He and his wife, King Yoak Won Wu, set up teaching ministries for those who had little chance of enrolling in standard American schools. They taught Chinese to the children and English to the adults. They held sewing classes to develop trade skills. They worked tirelessly to ensure that their congregations were fed both economically and spiritually. Their work helped to form devout worshiping communities as well as easing the transitions of Chinese Americans to lives in their new country.
After 37 years of ministry, Fr. Wu retired in 1944. He had played a singularly important role in establishing the ministry of The Episcopal Church among those of Chinese descent. Fr. Wu died on April 6, 1956.
Excerpted, in part, from A Great Cloud of Witnesses.