What was an insignificant mission founded at the turn of the 20th century in a small village on the mountains of Abra by a couple of Divine Word Missionaries is today a complex organization whose presence is felt in many parts of the Philippines, and is expressed in a rich variety of apostolates. Truly, the Lord has looked kindly at the SVD Mission in the Philippines
The Chinese presence in the Philippines goes back many centuries. With the coming of the Spaniards, the evangelization and pastoral care of the Chinese in Manila came under the Dominicans. Eventually, the Chinese parish was attached to the Binondo Parish. This arrangement lasted until 1954 when Manila Archbishop Rufino J. Cardinal Santos obtained from the Roman Consistorial Congregation the faculty to erect three more parishes for the Chinese. One of these was St. Jude Parish.
On October 13, 1954, Provincial Superior Hermann Kondring, SVD appointed Fr. Henry Windges, SVD as the first parish priest of the Espiritu Santo Chinese Parish, as the parish was known then. Subsequently, Archbishop Rufino J. Santos installed Fr. Windges a month later, on November 14. Fr. Peter Tsao, SVD was appointed assistant parish priest on December 7 of the same year.
In January 1955, the parish set up its first rectory by renting part of the premises of a former hospital (now Saint Jude Catholic School) in San Miguel, Manila. The next month, Archbishop Rufino J. Santos made St. Jude Thaddeus the patron saint of the parish as proposed by Father Provincial Hermann Kondring, SVD. Henceforth, the parish would also be known as St. Jude Parish. The present site of St. Jude Parish was donated by Archbishop Rufino J. Santos.
St. Jude Catholic School started as a seemingly unreachable dream for two SVD missionary priests, Monsignor (Msgr) Peter Tsao and Fr. Peter Yang, both of whom were among the hundreds of thousands Chinese who fled China when the communists came to power in 1949.
Msgr. Peter Tsao was appointed as assistant parish priest of Espiritu Santo Chinese Parish on December 7, 1954 and as quasi parish priest on March 29, 1957 when Fr. Windges went on home leave. He was officially installed as parish priest by Msgr. Jesus Tison on May 20, 1958.
Meanwhile, Fr. Peter Yang SVD, in his first assignment after his ordination, was assigned as assistant parish priest of Immaculate Concepcion Parish in Cubao, Quezon City in 1957. On May 7, 1959, he was appointed assistant parish priest of St. Jude Parish by Archbishop Rufino J. Santos. It was here where he was then tasked to help in the Chinese ministry by being the Spiritual Director of the Chinese Catholic Youth (CCY).
In dealing with these youth, Fr. Yang realized the difficulty of reaching out to the Chinese-Filipino community which consisted mostly of Buddhists, with only a sprinkling of Catholics and Protestants. Nonetheless, he saw the need to bring the teachings of Christ to the Chinese community and shepherd them into God’s fold. So he started to envision bringing the Word of God through their children; and what better way to reach the children than through education?
Firmly believing that it was the right path to go, Fr. Yang and Msgr. Peter Tsao, who was then parish priest of St. Jude Parish, decided to start a Catholic school. Despite the seeming lack of support from their immediate superiors, both co-founders got the consent of their Superior General from Rome to rent and use the hospital lot in Ycaza, an SVD property which was a shelter home for SVD American missionaries who left China, as the site of Saint Jude Catholic School and thus embark on their school apostolate.
Saint Jude Catholic School was formally opened in July 1963, with Fr. Yang as its first principal and Msgr. Tsao as its first director. Together with Msgr. Charles Tchou as Prefect of Discipline, and six teachers, namely, Ms. Rosa Chua (Esteban), Ms. Josefina Uy, Ms. Angelina Onglatco, Ms. Rogracia Sunga, Ms. Corazon Sevilla (Sebastian), and Ms. Amelita Simon, they started the hard work of building the school and giving shape and form to the vision for the school - quality education geared toward excellence and discipline in witnessing to the Word in the World.
Its early years saw an enrolment of one hundred ninety-two (192) students, divided into four Preschool sections and one Grade One section, and a teaching force of nine (9) teachers. Knowing the value of preserving the Chinese cultural heritage, a curricular program was designed that adopted the prescribed curriculum for Filipino schools and added a class on Chinese Language and Arts. What served as classrooms were the nipa-thatched houses in the Riverside Hospital that survived the Japanese occupation.