Friday, December 26, 2014

Funeral of Fr. James Sinnott Maryknoll Priest

Today the Maryknoll Family in Korea with many other priests and a large congregation said the the funeral Mass for Fr. James Sinnott  who died on Tuesday Dec.23. The Mass was offered in the Church of Repentance and Atonement in Paju, 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul. The Church was built with the help of both North and South Korean artists. The mosaic on the left is the work of the North.

Father Sinnott came to Korea in 1960 and after language study was a assigned to the diocese of Inchon where he worked in pastoral work, built a hospital for the sick, and showed the love of Jesus to the alienated in society. The funeral sermon mentioned the prophetic role that Fr. Jim was forced by his own loving heart, and inability to accept injustices, to work against the injustices he saw. 

During military rule eight innocent persons were condemned in 1975 for being members of the so called "People's revolutionary Party" and after torture and their 'confession' they were  executed the day following sentencing. Fr. Jim with a Protestant missionary George Ogle were deported because of their  activities in opposition to the execution. In a retrial in 2007 all eight were acquitted and the families received a large compensation. This injustice which Fr.Jim saw made him sensitive to injustices in society. He was invited back to Korea and in retirement began painting and  giving his paintings to others in his outreach in love.

Below is a poem by Fr. Jim Sinnott written for his 80th birthday and read on the  visit of the families of those who were executed, and came to celebrate the day with Jim. We included this poem in a blog in 2009 and recopy it for today.

Write it down
Before it goes away:
Eleven people sitting round a table
Out on a lawn under a tree
Here where I live now,
Remembering the things we did,
Attempts against some things
Happening here in South Korea
More than thirty years ago:
Men falsely accused, jailed unfairly –
One of them, eight years imprisoned,
Sitting next to me and
The widow of another
Sitting at my other side.

We are gathered here today
Because I’ve just turned eighty,
A thing impossible to dream of
In one’s early years,
As impossible as the events
That happened here in South Korea
More than thirty years ago,
Events that knit us into one,
An inseparable fabric
Labeled by security police
The “In hyek dang”
The Peoples’ Revolutionary Party,
That phony dictator’s concoction,
That lie that changed our lives
And made widows of these women
As well as years-long prisoners
Of twenty other men.
Eight men were hanged
One early morning, an evil solstice
More than thirty years ago, nine April,
When for us the sun stood still,
A day declared “Black day
In the history of jurisprudence”
By the lawyers of the world;

A day etched in the memory of my guests today,
Gathered round this table
On the lawn outside my house
For an eightieth birthday celebration,
An occasion no young person
Of my generation gives much thought to,
Anymore than one would plan
To be involved with
Murderous judicial decisions,
Torture of the chosen victims
Who were innocent of any crime,
As an apologetic nation
Finally admitted -
Thirty years too late.

And so we gather at this table
And reminisce
About the ways we tried to fight
Those terrible decisions
And we sing again the songs we sang
As we paraded on the streets,
Breaking the “peaceful order” laws
Of those dark times of martial law;
Eleven men and women sitting at a table,
On this day, this summer solstice,
Remembering, together,
Before we also go away.

James Sinnott, MM

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