A Pilgrimage to Korea
6/1/2017by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Our Order’s presence in Korea has given the Knights an extraordinary opportunity to serve the Church
IN APRIL, Dorian and I spent Holy Week in South Korea visiting brother Knights and their families. Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard and his wife, Linda, and other K of C representatives accompanied us. The visit coincided with the Holy Week pastoral visit of Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A., to various military bases in Korea.
Our pilgrimage began as we prayed with Korean Catholics during Palm Sunday Mass at the Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul for the peaceful reunification of their country. We concluded by joining Bishop Spencer and praying with U.S. armed services personnel and their families during the Good Friday liturgy at the Yongsan Garrison chapel.
We returned to the United States on Holy Saturday, just hours before Vice President Pence departed to South Korea.
During the pilgrimage, we met with Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul, who had warmly welcomed us during our previous visit to the city. On this occasion, we discussed with him the challenges confronting the Church in Seoul, which is one of fastest-growing Catholic dioceses in the world, and how the Knights of Columbus could assist him in his pastoral mission. Bishop Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, who is head of the Military Ordinariate of Korea and a Fourth Degree Knight, joined this meeting as well.
We also met with the Mayor of Seoul, Mr. Park Won-soon, who outlined his work to encourage greater philanthropy and charity throughout the city. He invited our local councils to be part of these efforts.
Leaders of the recently established St. Andrew Kim Taegon Council 16000 and St. Paul Chong Hasang Council 16178 gave updates on their progress, and we discussed their initiative to assist some of the thousands of children who escaped with their families from North Korea and now live in Seoul. These children confront extraordinary challenges as they begin a new life in South Korea. One indicator is hard to believe: A report recently stated that by age 7, North Korean children are on average 8 inches shorter and weigh 22 pounds less than children growing up in South Korea. I am tremendously proud that some of our newest brother Knights are seeking ways to help these children build a new life.
We also traveled to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. As we stood just feet away from an active mine field and looked through binoculars at military and other installations in North Korea, we could better appreciate the sacrifices that our active military and their families make each day as they maintain a constant state of readiness. During our entire time in Korea, we were — like them — within range of North Korean artillery and missiles.
On Good Friday morning, we were especially moved during our visit to the Danggogae Martyrs’ Shrine in Seoul, at the place where nine saints and one blessed were martyred during the persecution of Catholics in 1839. Because three of the martyrs were mothers with young children, it is also known in Korea as the Mothers’ Shrine. St. Magdalena Son So-byok, for example, was martyred with the eldest of her 11 children, St. Barbara Choe Yong-i. It is also the place of martyrdom of Blessed Mary Yi Seong-rye, the mother of Father Thomas Choe Yang-eop, for whom our latest council in Korea, Council 16685 in Wonju, is named.
I presented the charter to Council 16685, as well as to Father Herman G. Felhoelter Council 16678 at Camp Walker in Daegu, earlier in the week.
Pope Francis has urged Catholics to go out to the peripheries with the Good News of the Gospel and with works of charity. In many ways, the growth and service of the Knights of Columbus in Korea has been a response to the Holy Father’s call.