The recent edition of the Catholic Peace Weekly had a one page interview with Fr. Gerard E. Hammond, the Maryknoll Fathers' local superior. He recently received the highest honor given by the Knights of Columbus, "The Gaudium et Spes Award for his work with the Eugene Bell Foundation an ecumenical movement which brings medicines to tuberculosis patients in North Korea.
The award was given in the United
States in recognition of the work of Fr. Hammond with the sick of North
Korea. The first recipient of the award was Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
He is the 13th person to receive the award and the first priest. He will
receive an honorarium of $100,000 which Father plans to use in building
homes for the sick.
Hammond who came to Korea in 1960 and is now only three years away from his sixtieth year of priesthood, began his trips to North Korea in 1995. He has now made 56
trips to North Korea as a trustee of the Eugene Bell Foundation. They
have helped over 250,000 sick and are now taking care of about 2000
In response to a question on his feelings in
receiving the reward, Father responds that what he did and hopes to
continue doing is what any missioner would do and he receives the award
for all missioners.Korea is a country that has suffered much.
Jesus is with the suffering of those in the North and the missioner
needs to go. He quotes Pope Francis in showing solidarity with those who
They are taking care of about 2000 patients
and taking the medicines they have 80% who are returned to health, 20%
die from the disease. Every six months they return to the North to give
the medicines. Plans are in progress to build about 20 convalescent
homes on the outskirts of Pyongyang which will cost about 70,000 dollars
each and he plans to use the honorarium money to help build these
buildings. Each one will accommodate about 50 patients.
the question whether he has made any friends in the North he answers
that he has only been concerned about the work. They are all Koreans
just like the ones in the South. When he was younger they called him
comrade but now he asks them to call him grandfather and he calls them
He tells the interviewer that in his
opinion they are not starving. They also like all other societies have
some poor but they seem to have a leisurely life all with their hand
Why does he continue his work in the North? Fr. Hammond
replies that Maryknoll began work in South Pyongyang Province in 1923
and the diocese was established in 1927. When unification comes he wants
to be one of the first to be with those in the North.
division of the peninsular engenders a great deal of anger what does he
have to say to the Catholic Church of Korea? It's a dangerous time in
Korea right now. If a war breaks out we are all destroyed. Three things
should be remembered: we need to maintain peace, without conditions we
work for peace. Secondly we work towards reconciliation with the North and thirdly, we continue to work for dialogue between the North and
South. Prayer for peace on the peninsular and for the suffering church
in the North not only this month of the martyrs but continually.
Fr. Hammond's interview continues with his growing up years and personal reminisces of life in Korea. He concludes that he would like to
continue what he is doing: working with the Eugene Bell Foundation with TB patients of the North. It's a bridge with the North and he hopes that
in November they will be able to return to the North and asks for