Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Don't Cry for me Sudan"

In  Letter of the Editor's Column of the Chosun Ilbo there was a short account of Fr. Lee Tae-suk, a Salesian missionary, who went to southern Sudan which was  ravished by war. Working there as a priest, doctor, teacher and musician, he also started a hospital, a school, and a youth movement. He died a year ago this month of colon cancer.

The writer mentions that the documentary film made of Fr. Lee's life , Don't Cry for me Sudan, was seen by over 300,000, and moved many to tears. There is also a best-selling book, Will You Be My Friend?  

When reading the book he was stunned to learn that he attended the same church that Fr. Lee attended: the St. Joseph  parish of Song Do in Pusan. It was a parish built for the poor and needy of Pusan, after the Korean war left many unemployed.  The writer was one year older than Fr. Lee, so he believes they both attended the same religious classes when in grammar and middle school.

At that time the pastor of the church, he tells us, was Fr. Aloysius Schwartz, who always had a desire to serve the poor. Although he studied  as a Maryknoll seminarian, he decided  to leave  for a life more dedicated to poverty, and was ordained a priest in 1957 in the United States. He came to Korea the same year and became a priest of the Pusan Diocese and then pastor of the Song Do Parish.

It was in this parish that Fr. Schwartz devoted himself to the poor, many of whom, because of the war, had to sell rags and waste paper and lived by begging. He founded the Sisters of Mary and later the Brothers of Christ, all the while living like the poor people around the parish. He established a  Boys town and a Girls town to care, educate and help children of the poor, orphans and the handicapped, receiving many awards for his service to the poor and was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Later he went to the Philippines to work for the poor and where he is buried. 

The writer reminds us that Fr. Lee had Fr. Schwartz as his pastor and that it was his life he wanted to emulate. He did so in the Sudan.

1 comment:

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