Columban Mission in the province of Kangwon, Korea

Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Chungrimdong, Korea.Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Chungrimdong, Korea.

Fr Hong-Kison-Hijino, parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Cheongdam-dong, marks 100 years of history and speaks of his relationship with the Columban Society.

The parish of Kogin is the northernmost parish on the east coast of Korea. It is above the 38th parallel and next to the Demilitarised Zone. I came from this parish. I lived there until I graduated from middle school when I went to the minor seminary in Seoul. For ten years, I imbibed some of the waters of Seoul and Kwangju, Cholla-namdo, when I was living there. Of course, I spent all my vacations until ordination in my native Kogin, where I was born and raised. I am a true son of Kogin’s sea breezes.

Kogin was originally a Catholic outstation and only became a parish in August 1976. I was 14 years old then, but I had met many Columban priests from the time it was a mere outstation. Fr Hubert Hayward from New Zealand, became the parish priest, and he was almost everything to me in my young days. I served Mass for him and grew up under his tender care until I went to the minor seminary and then to the seminary until my ordination in 1989. Fr Hayward was always my parish priest in Kogin.

Through him, I had the pleasure of meeting many Columban missionaries. They all used to meet on Monday evenings for a simple meal and convivial time together. In the summer, they used to go to their holiday house by the sea in the village of Mulchi. I became part of that gathering and had the privilege of meeting Frs Philip Crosbie, Thomas Comerford, John Lynch, John Nyhan and many more at the Mulchi holiday house. While I was at the minor seminary, I got to know the Columban Central House in Donamdong.

My aunt was working there on the staff, but until that time I had never known or taken any great interest in what she was doing or where she was working.

I was appointed curate to the parish of Hyocho-dong after ordination. I had all my meals with Columban Bishop Thomas Stewart, as I was living in the bishop’s house. Living that close to him, I got to know him well. When I was doing some postgraduate studies in Rome, I took the opportunity to visit Ireland. I spent a day in Dalgan, which originally was the Columban seminary and is now the headquarters of the Irish Region.

I went to pray at the grave of the late Bishop Stewart, and while there, I discovered the graves of numerous Columban missionaries who had served in Korea. I was delighted to have been able to visit the Columban cemetery and see the graves of these great missionaries.

When I completed my studies in Rome, I returned to Korea and served in several parishes. While in the parish of Hongchun, I wrote a book about its 88-year history. Through my research for the book, I got to know a lot more about the work of Fr Crosbie from Australia.

In 2017, I was appointed to Cheongdam-dong parish, and this year I have written a book about its 100-year history. I give thanks to God for allowing me to write these two history books.

As I was writing them, I had the feeling that the Columban missionaries who had died were resurrected and appeared before me. I realised anew the tremendous courage they showed and their utter dedication to their mission. I could see that like earthenware that can easily be broken, so could these men of flesh and blood. However, what I witnessed was their mental tenacity and the vigorous activity of the Holy Spirit. To me, they are all heroes.

I sincerely thank the 88 Columban missionaries who served in the Diocese of Chuncheon. When I wrote the 100-year history of Cheongdam-dong parish, I was able to concentrate more on their lives and work. It was a special time of grace for me personally. For over six months, I welcomed the dawn each morning as I felt that these brave missionaries were truly helping me write the history of this parish. I experienced a thrilling feeling each time I discovered some facts I did not know or had long misunderstood. That surreal experience would stay with me for a week or so. The missionaries of the Columban Mission Society are all pilgrims for Christ (Peregrinatio Pro Christo).

The individual Columban missionaries I had the privilege of meeting freely chose to be pilgrims in Korea and lived in the province of Kangwon. They were living witnesses of people who gave their lives out of love for their friends. I continue to live in this area and am extremely grateful for having known them.

In 2017, I was appointed to Cheongdam-dong parish, and this year I have written a book about its 100-year history. I give thanks to God for allowing me to write these two history books.

I sincerely thank the 88 Columban missionaries who served in the Diocese of Chuncheon. When I wrote the 100-year history of Cheongdam-dong parish, I was able to concentrate more on their lives and work.

Fr Hong-Kison-Hijino is the present parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, Cheongdam-dong, Korea.

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