September 20, 2016
Today we honor the first Korean priest who is the patron saint of the church in Korea, Andrew Kim.
He was born in 1821. Strangely, the Catholic Church in Korea got its start thirty years before then. In 1776, a delegation went from Korea to Beijing, China, learned Catholicism, and brought it back. They had their own priests until 1836 when the French foreign missionaries sent their first priests to Korea.
From that time on, Korea was known as the Hermit Kingdom, and executed all foreigners. In 1836 at age 15, Andrew was baptized. He was sent to Hong Kong where he studied for the priesthood. In 1844 he was ordained a priest. In the company of a French bishop and a French priest, they snuck into Korea. After two years, the three were beheaded as unwanted foreigners.
As a pastor in a Korean parish, a movie company asked us to stage their arrival. I played the part of the French priest while my friend Father Lynch played the bishop. The sea was rough that day. They sent us out to sea. Father Lynch was holding on to the mast, and afraid, “Jaypers, Sully, I can’t swim!” We came ashore and planted a cross for the camera.
We honor Korea’s first priest, who was beheaded at age twenty six.