April 6: Daniel G. C. Wu, Priest and Missionary among Chinese Americans, 1956

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

Work among Chinese Americans in the San Francisco Bay area dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century, but flourished under the leadership of Daniel Gee Ching Wu.

His story begins in Hawaii when Deaconess Emma Drant asked Gee Ching Wu to teach her Chinese in exchange for lessons in English. At the time, Wu was reticent toward the faith, but during their time together, Drant’s Christian convictions inspired his conversion. Wu was baptized, taking the name Daniel. Drant left for San Francisco where she began mission work among the Chinese and in 1905 called together a worshiping community to be called True Sunshine Episcopal Mission. After the 1906 earthquake, many residents of San Francisco, including many Chinese, fled across the bay to Oakland, and a second Chinese mission took root there. Needing help, Drant called upon Daniel Wu, to come from Hawaii and support her missionary efforts.

From the time of his arrival in 1907, Wu managed the work of the two missions while studying for ordination at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He was ordained in 1912 and became the Vicar of True Sunshine Episcopal Mission in San Francisco and Our Savior Episcopal Mission in Oakland, both of which were already thriving congregations.

Daniel Wu devoted his ministry to work among Chinese immigrants. He frequently worked the docks and points of entry, made contact with those newly arrived, and assisted in whatever way possible to ease their transition to their new home. To keep them connected to their heritage, Wu and the people of his congregations offered classes in Chinese to the children, and instruction in English to the adults.

They offered a variety of programs that helped newcomers to adjust to their new country without losing the culture and heritage of their homeland.

For thirty-six years, Daniel Wu and his people opened their hearts and their churches to generations of Chinese Americans and played a singularly important role in establishing the ministry of the Episcopal Church among those of Asian descent.


I    We offer thanks, loving God, for the ministry of Daniel Wu, priest and pioneer church planter among Asian-Americans, and for the stable worshiping communities he established, easing many immigrants’ passage into a confusing new world. By the power of thy Holy Spirit, raise up other inspired leaders, that today’s newcomers may find leaders from their diverse communities faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II     We give you thanks, loving God, for the ministry of Daniel Wu, priest and pioneer church planter among Asian-Americans, and for the stable worshiping communities he established, easing many immigrants’ passage into a confusing new world. By the power of your Holy Spirit, raise up other inspired leaders, that today’s newcomers may find leaders from their diverse communities faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the same Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Mark 8:1a-9a

Psalm 147:13-20

Preface of Baptism

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

* * *

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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37 thoughts on “April 6: Daniel G. C. Wu, Priest and Missionary among Chinese Americans, 1956

  1. This commemoration is for Trial Use. All elements (Title, Collect, Lections, and Proper Preface) are new.

    • We celebrated this commemoration last year, assisted by internet research on the missions in the San Francisco area and were pleased to find the current Church of Our Saviour, a bilingual parish like ours, with whom we share the same name (except we’re Spanish and English speaking).
      We felt it might be useful to observe the collegiality of Deaconness Emma Drant in the ministry along with Fr. Wu, unless there is some untold story of cultural imperialism and hard feelings about that.

  2. Collect. Is the word ‘newcomers’ an appropriate word for the collect? It is awkward, IMHO.

    Readings. Hebrew Scripture reading: Does this really fit? It is about the exile? Wu’s?
    New Testament reading: Live a quiet life and mind your own business? That doesn’t fit either, IMHO.

    Bio. He needs a ‘He died in 1956.’statement.

    • I agree that “newcomer” is awkward. And what’s a “church planter”? Sounds like some sort of ecclesiastical flower box. Why “Asian-Americans” instead of “Chinese-Americans”; there’s nothing in the bio to suggest missionary work among Asians other than Chinese. Finally, why does collect Version I “offer thanks,” but Version II “give you thanks”? Either make both “offer,” or change Version I to “give thee.” (I prefer the latter.)

  3. “Church planter” ? The bio says he served congregations that were already thriving. At the end of reading this biography I felt like Emily Drant was the outstanding person to commemorate, more than, or at least as much as Wu.

  4. Collect contains too much modern jargon. Use of “communities” twice in one prayer is excessive (and I find it a tongue-twister, but I have unusual difficulty pronouncing the word “community” under the best of circumstances).

    I like the Jeremiah reading, but am underwhelmed by the Epistle, and have not figured out what connection the Gospel has to anything in his bio.

    Overall, I think it’s a worthy commemoration. I had never heard of him and was glad to learn.

  5. “Work among Chinese Americans in the San Francisco Bay area…”
    Church work? (I think it should be specified, so it doesn’t just read as if it meant “employment” in general.)

    “to teach her Chinese” – It obviously means here “the Chinese language,” and I have to confess ignorance of Chinese languages, but I do know it is common for Chinese people to distinguish between Mandarin or Cantonese when referring to their languages. So, I question whether we can write as if there exists “A” (or “THE”) Chinese language.

    “reticent toward the faith”? You really mean “disposed to be silent or not to speak freely; reserved”? Could you mean, instead, resistant? (Maybe something else? “Reticent” seems like the wrong word.)

    There is so much here about Deaconess Drant, and it takes so long before the write-up gets into the story with Father Wu, it would seem proper to make this a shared commemoration. Otherwise, I have to think of the delay in getting to Wu as a weakness.

    Preliminary description of the needs of the Chinese immigrants would be worth including early in the write-up.

    The end seemed to drop off without really concluding. Michael’s suggested “he died” statement may be all that is needed.

    “He frequently worked the docks and points of entry,…”
    I believe that should be “PORTS” of entry. (I have not checked the print edition regarding this typo.)

    The penultimate paragraph (one sentence) does not need to stand alone. It continues the thought of the previous paragraph. Or, equally, it could be joined to the final paragraph. It doesn’t seem strong enough to stand independently.

    • Re: points of entry vs. ports of entry. It is the same in the print edition as it is above: points of entry.

  6. I agree with those who have taken issue with the collect. It’s odd that this commemoration has so little information in it, really– but does the collect need to rehash every bit? And yes– his mission was to the Chinese in California. It seems to me OK to have a defined, relatively focused mission and I don’t see that the collect needs to broaden it. I also think “stable” is an odd adjective to choose. Do we know that? “Welcoming,” maybe? “Caring”? “Nurturing,” even?

    Also– the immigrants’ communities aren’t necessarily diverse. Wu’s wasn’t. Speaking of diverse immigrant communities always seems to subtly suggest that OURS, on the other had, isn’t. I do like the first clause of that sentence, asking God to raise up other inspired leaders…. perhaps we might ask God “to raise up other inspired leaders will welcome and minister to today’s newcomers as the least of these our brethren, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ”?

    Even if Daniel Wu was added in the pursuit of cultural diversity, I am thankful to have learned of him. He seems to have embodied caring for the least of these (our Chinese brethren, at least).

  7. My bad, btw. I read the really condensed bio on Satucket this morning, attributed to HWHM, and did not read the one above. It is certainly less sparse! My concerns on the collect remain, however, as does my gratitude for meeting him.

  8. Flat-out contradiction? The write up tells of two “already thriving congregations” with which he worked. The collect thanks God for him as a “pioneer church planter….” It could conceivably be both, but only if the write-up suppressed the other half of the story — which I doubt. You have to make up your mind — which is it? Shepherd of established congregations, or pioneer church planter?

    • PS – THE DEACONESS should get the credit for “planting” these congregations! (Don’t we love deacons any more?) “Needing help, Drant called upon Daniel Wu, to come from Hawaii and support her missionary efforts.” This is a remarkable Deaconess. She makes Christians, she finds the right ministry for them, she establishes congregation(s), she opens the door to priestly vocation, and she gets left out of the collect and the commemoration title. I want to complain to the management!!!

  9. Father Daniel Gee Ching Wu apparently westernized his name from Wu Gee-Ching. He was born in China 19 Oct. 1883. He spoke Cantonese. For many years he was the only ethnic Chinese priest in the Episcopal Church, as well as the first. His work was primarily with Cantonese speaking immigrants as well as ethinic Chinese born in the U.S.

    • Thanks for this added information; I hope much of it makes its way into the final bio. It brings up another issue, though: shouldn’t we include his full Chinese name rather than using two initials?

      • From what I could find out about Father Wu, “Daniel G. C. Wu” was how his name was recorded in Episcopal Church publications.

  10. True Sunshine Episcpal Church in Chinatown, San Francisco and Church of our Savior in Oakland, Ca were both started by Deaconess Emma Drant so I suppose she could be called the “church planter.” But apparently she left both congregations shortly after their founding. So it was the Rev. Daniel G. C. Wu who had the responsbility of both congregations even before he was even ordained deacon and then priest.

    • Similar to Paul and Apollos, but Paul made darn sure they remembered who planted , who watered, and who gave the growth.

  11. One more annoying afterthought, this one about the term “Chinese Americans.” I generally step aside when the terminology about specific groups is the topic. Others know more than I do about that. But I have to wonder at what point someone goes from “Immigrant” status to “Something American” status? My thought would be that when one becomes a citizen it brings with it the “American” part of the reference, and until then it would be more tenuous. In this commemoration, which begins with the words, “Work among Chinese Americans in the San Francisco Bay area…” seems just a bit off center, and perhaps “Chinese immigrants in the San Francisco Bay area” might be closer to on target, and something else might be more on the mark, yet. (I don’t consider “immigrant” a pejoritive word. All of us are immigrants at some point in the family tree, unless you believe Adam and Eve were the first Americans.)

  12. Quote: Daniel Wu devoted his ministry to work among Chinese immigrants. He frequently worked the docks and points of entry, made contact with those newly arrived, and assisted in whatever way possible to ease their transition to their new home.

    I am confused. Father Wu did most of his work while the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (and its extensions) were in effect (1882-1943). These law systematically prevented Chinese laborers from entering the U.S. The effect was to exclude nearly all Chinese immigration to the U.S . There was an exception for merchants, teachers, and ethnic Chinese persons who were born in the U.S. Also, two children might be allowed to enter the U.S. Apparently after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, there were a large number of “paper” sons who emigrated from China since it was not possible to prove or disprove the parent -child relationship because of paperwork lost during the fire. Chinese immigrants who lived here legally could not become citizens. So when did Fr. Wu become a citizen?

    The exclusion acts resulted in human smuggling (is this suprising?). Daniel Gee Ching Wu’s immigration from Hawaii would have been covered by the “I am not a laborer” exception. (Now that sounds more than ironic given all the hard labor that Father Wu did for the Church.) Still I wonder, how he was able to do the work he did given the laws in place during the time he was a priest (June 11, 1914 to his death on April 6, 1956).

    • I have another opps. Fr. Wu was ordained to the priesthood on June 11, 1913 at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

    • There were many Chinese in the US already. Wu could come from the (then) Territory of Hawaii. He ministered to those who were in the U.S.; to the “paper sons”; and to any non-laborers who arrived while the exclusion act was in force.

      The text indicates that he was ordained (presumably to the diaconate) in 1912.

  13. Oh where is Tikhon? It is nearly 2 pm EDT and he has not arrived … perhaps he is on Alaskan time.
    Here is an icon of him in the mean time:

  14. I suggest the subtitle simply state: “Missionary to Chinese Americans”.

    The first paragraph is unnecessary: its main point can be expressed later. If it is retained, I would eliminate the “but” in line 2, replacing it with a semicolon in place of the comma,or possibly “and”.

    Line 1, second paragraph: start “Gee Ching Wu was born in China in 1883. Some time later, when he was living in Hawaii, he was asked by Deaconess Emma Drant..” continuing in line to with “to teach…”, etc.

  15. COLLECT: This collect is another “things to do list” for God, with a thanksgiving as its preface, and a twitter-sized summary of his bio for those who forgot who he was, already. It has a “so that” clause, but one that (regrettably) gives “newcomers” a task instead of stating a goal the whole church could embrace together which would be integral to the baptismal covenant. The invocation is good, with “Loving God” being more in keeping than the usual unreflective boilerplate alternatives, especially so since pastoral ministry is at the heart of this remembrance.
    Proposed Collect Revision:
    Loving God, we thank you for Daniel Wu and his work among the Chinese immigrants whose lives he touched in his day; by the power of your Holy Spirit give to your church and its members compassion and respect for people of all races and nationalities wherever they reside, so that your love may inspire every community with your wisdom and call forth leaders to guide your flock in faithfulness to the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
    The NT readings are fine; the epistle strikes a clear but (unfortunately) brief note of compassionate care, and the gospel lesson, the feeding of the multitude, expresses God’s goodness towards human needs at many levels, spiritual as well as physical. Note that in the citation of the Gospel, 8:1a-9a, the “a” on 1a is should be eliminated, unless it is intended to preclude use of 1b (which seems unlikely), in which case the selection would be written 8:1a, 2-9a.
    Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 seems an unfortunate choice, since it seems to address the commemoration (ministry with the Chinese and more generally ministry with immigrant groups) as one of exile. It offers pragmatic advice (amounting to “make the best of it under the compromised circumstances,”) but in doing so subtly suggests immigration is something less than desirable. It fails to say God is there, or that God’s (or human) purpose can be fulfilled by following the proffered advice. It’s sort of a “one-down” passage: “hey, you’re stuck – make a go of it anyway.” There MUST be a better selection than this somewhere in the OT!
    Psalm 147:13-20 doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of Wu, SF, or Chinese immigrant work. It’s about city gates/ border peace/ abundance of wheat/ snow & frost (& thawing)/ and ends by lopping off the final verse, which denies God’s judgments are available to foreigners! It seems a terrible choice, having no good connection to the commemoration. Ignoring the final verse offends by cherry-picking to avoid what the scripture actually says.
    Psalm 147 BCP:
    13 Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
    14 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you.
    15 He has established peace on your borders; he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
    16 He sends out his command to the earth, and his word runs very swiftly.
    17 He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
    18 He scatters his hail like bread crumbs; who can stand against his cold?
    19 He sends forth his word and melts them; he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.
    20 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgments to Israel.
    21 Omitted:
    21 He has not done so to any other nation; to them he has not revealed his judgments.
    A possible alternative would be 119:57-64.
    GENERAL CONCLUSION: When you look at the substantive comments in the feedback, there is a great deal wrong with this commemoration as prepared. I feel it is warranted to include in our calendar, as critiqued, but that this particular preparation of the materials is below the standard of acceptability at this time. I suggest it be declined and deferred until it is adequately prepared and presented in an acceptable form..

  16. John, this is the first time that I’ve seen you reject a commemoration altogether; doing so seems to undo your otherwise cogent suggestions! I hope the commemoration is not withdrawn, since I am grateful for heaving learned of him.

    That said, I was very conscious of the collect’s shortcomings as I prayed it a Evening Prayer yesterday, but I didn’t want to say anything– however, the other two members of our regular “two or three” both commented on it as being “more like a memo than a prayer.” I like your proposed alternative very much. I hope whoever is out there collecting this feedback takes it to heart.

    And what DID become of St Tikhon, anyway? He did turn up on the Satucket site– seem to have been a fine & brave fellow, but I was looking forward to questioning his collect! (” Open our eyes, we pray, as you opened the eyes of your servant Tikhon…” which may be true but nowhere is supported in the bio, which is drawn from Wikipedia.

      • Thanks for the comments. Actually, on re-reading my collect proposal, I see that I, also, fell into the same pit as the original. My “so that” clause leaves much to be desired in terms of real individuals being able to “opt in.”

        About deferring the commemoration — I’m beginning to feel there are SO MANY good suggestions, corrections, additions, etc., for SO MANY of these commemorations (both new ones and previously approved ones) I’m beginning to doubt that any one committee, commission, gnome troup, or fairy godmother, is likely to be able to put them to good use by GC-12. I guess I’d rather see additional time given to the task than to have it rushed through in an inferior way simply because time is running out. I hope disillusionment isn’t contageous.

      • gnome troup?
        troop, John, troop. Tea, are, owe, owe, pea, “troop.”
        tango – romeo – oscar – oscar – papa, “troop.”

  17. Don’t give up, John. I agree that it’s a pretty daunting task, especially with GC coming up so alarmingly soon. Honestly, I had the same thought when I purchased the book: WAY too much of a good thing!

    Here’s a thought, though: does GC ’12 have to be the make-or-break point? Maybe those charged with vetting this could take the comments they so graciously solicited (which we have so abundantly supplied!) and take a year or so to sift & winnow, as we say in Wisconsin, and bring back a new iteration for comments, running another year. Then by GC ’15 we might be in a good position to move forward.

    If so, I hope there might be some ground rules one of which, I hope, would seriously reconsider any candidate outside the Anglican Communion unless that person:
    a- predates the Reformation and continues to be generally revered; or
    b- strongly embodied a Christ-like life or virtues; or
    c- was of unquestioned holiness in his/her time and culture.

    • Those of us who comment on the commemorations, proposed and updated, are just a tiny minority of Episcopalians. I wonder whether our thoughts, suggestions and corrections will really be taken into consideration by the Standing Commission on Litturgy and Music. Hopefully the factual errors which have been found will be corrected at the very least. I have to heartily agree with the sentiment that more time is needed and these commemorations will probably not be ready for next year’s General Convention.

      • I feel confident SCLM will look at and consider what is shared here. My “angst” stems not just from the magnitude of HWHM considerations, but from list of OTHER projects the SCLM is charged to produce: Hymnal Revision, Same-sex rites, and (close to my heart, both theologically and zoologically) animal rites with accompanying theological/pastoral considerations! (Who knows what else? I don’t!) Of those, you KNOW which one is going to get the lion’s share of public attention (…world-wide!) — and if you’re guessing, it won’t be HWHM!

        The three-step corporate deliberation process carefully explained to me when I first arrived in a parish, lo, these 30 years hence, (explained by a shut-in who remained extremely active in the life and ministry of the parish) was too true to forget: “The way things work here is, First we talk about it. Then we think about it. Then we forget about it.” (Blessed Louise, who doesn’t quite qualify under the 25 year rule!) I’d hate to see an ultimately arbitrary deadline scuttle or short-circuit so much sound input from people of such wonderful backgrounds as on this blog. I find the book AND the comments nourish my soul. I’d like to think that could be shared, but maybe that’s unrealistic wishful thinking to ask from an essentially legislative body. (“Lord, in your mercy, “___ ___ ___.”)

  18. […] We give you thanks, loving God, for the ministry of Daniel Wu, priest and pioneer church planter among Asian-Americans, and for the stable worshiping communities he established, easing many immigrants’ passage into a confusing new world. By the power of your Holy Spirit, raise up other inspired leaders, that today’s newcomers may find leaders from their diverse communities faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the same Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen. Learn more about Daniel G.C. Wu. […]

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