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NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus St. Bede superintendent Ted Struck shakes hands with Wei-Che Lee, owner of Kinglee High School in Zhengzou, China after signing a student exchange agreement during a press conference Thursday afternoon at St. Bede.
A St. Bede Academy student exchange program with a high school in China took a leap forward Thursday with signing of an agreement.
Kinglee High School in Zhengzhou, China, the academy’s sister school, agreed to begin accepting St. Bede students next school year.
St. Bede superintendent Ted Struck and Wei-Chi Lee, owner of the Kinglee school and Best Educational Organization, embraced after signing the agreement Thursday during a ceremony at the academy.
Speaking through an interpreter, Lee said: “I truly believe St. Bede is a place filled with love and equality. We will continue to work with St. Bede Academy to carry on this mission to other parts of the world.”
Struck called the exchange “a significant milestone in the history of St. Bede Academy.”
“We’re extremely optimistic that at St. Bede Academy we’re always looking for ways to give students a unique opportunity,” Struck said. “We want our students to have the desire to be good global citizens.”
Six Chinese students from Kinglee began boarding and attending St. Bede this school year along with students from Mexico, Brazil, South Korea, Russia and China. Next school year, St. Bede students will stay with boarders during the week while attending Kinglee and stay with host families on the weekend, Struck said. They will study the same subjects they would learn at St. Bede.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about why we are doing this,” said Abbot Philip Davey. Benedictine monk rules from the 6th Century emphasize hospitality and “welcoming pilgrims in life,” he said.
“We recognize that these young people here are the future of the world,” Davey said. “I am thrilled as we begin this new part of our shared mission.”
Officials addressed the potential religious conflict between St. Bede, a Catholic high school, and China, where the official Communist government-proclaimed religion is atheism. However, China recognizes Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity and Catholicism, according to a recent Reuters news report.
Davey said studies delve into “the subject of religion and not theology,” and foreign students at St. Bede have embraced religious religion.
Lee addressed this as well.
“It’s important for each of us to have our religious faith — but for each student to be introduced to the diversity of religion,” she said.
The exchange also will include faculty members from St. Bede, including Principal Michelle Mershon and Guidance Counselor Theresa Bernabei, Struck said.
Officials from the Kinglee school plan to tour the Illinois Valley today.