Friday, November 27, 2009

The Family of the Second Korean Priest

In the recent Peace Weekly there was a report of the academic symposium in the Suwon Diocese which dealt with the Catholic Sirisan Shrine and the father of the second Korean Priest, Saint Choi Kyong -hwan (Francis).

What is somewhat unusual is the mother Lee Seong Yea (Maria) has not officially received the title although the mother did suffer martyrdom. The reason,treated in the symposium, was the mother did briefly deny her faith; at that time it was thought it would leave a bad feeling in the memory of the Christians to pursue her cause, even though she died a martyr just a few months after her husband.

This is a good indication of the thinking of that time. Lee Seong Yea was the mother of a seminarian studying for the priesthood in Macau. She had five more children after Yang-op was born. It was this mother's love that she had to contend with that prompted her to briefly deny her faith, she regretted this and withdrew it and was martyred on December 29, 1939. However, the brief denial of her faith by the mother of a future priest was the apparent reason for not pursuing her cause.

The members of the Sirisan community all apostatized except the father and mother and a relative of Choi Yang-op (Thomas). This was a big cross for St. Francis Choi to witness. They do not have much information about the mother of Choi Yang-op but they agreed that she should be together with her husband and son on the rolls of the saints.

Over the years I have met people who remember that some of their forebears were Catholic. When one reflects that these martyrs in Korea lost everything it is easy to understand how the children of those who denied their faith felt towards Catholicism. "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of Faith" a conclusion readily seen in the history of Catholicism in Korea. There are 21 descendants of St. Francis Choi who entered the religious life as priests or religious.

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