When I lived in Hallim on Jeju Island I knew two delightful old people, namely Mrs. Kang and her husband.I came to know them through the Isidore Development Association’s social welfare apostolate for the Aged, in which I worked. At that time they were taking care of their son, Tae Gyu, and of his youngest son.Tae Gyu had been in the fishing trade but he had not been a great success;he was now back home with his parents and he was suffering from cancer. His parents were Buddhists but Tae Gyu had no interest in any religion. When his mother told me about his illness Susanna, the parish catechist, and I began to visit him, and to support his mother in any way we could. Very soon afterwards Tae Gyu took an interest in learning catechism, so we went to instruct him quite regularly; he soon began to have some hope in life and to become a catholic.He was anxious to learn as much doctrine as he could before being baptised.
Some months later, when further treatment had failed, his health deteriorated;then one day,at his request, the priest came to baptise him. A table was beautifully set up, with white cloth, candles, the holy oils and everything needed for baptism, confirmation, and the sacrament of the sick.The priest dressed, as he would in the church for such an occasion.And Tae Gyu’s mother was taking everything in; she took part in the whole ceremony while her son very happily received all those sacraments:confident in God’s great love for him; he chose the name Andrew for his baptismal name. His mother told me afterwards that she had never seen anything more beautiful, and that she would love if all her family could become catholics.
During all those months of preparation seeds were being sown in this great woman’s heart;special words and thoughts were coming back to her.However, she said that her husband and herself had responsibilities in the Buddhist temple since they were teenagers and that they would have to keep going there.Needless to say I respected her wishes and did not put any pressure on her.Andrew’s funeral mass was on July 5, the feast of St. Andrew Kim, whom he chose as his patron saint, and all the family were present.
Susanna and I kept up our contact with them and very soon afterwards several of the family started to go to doctrine classes at the parish.One Saturday afternoon, the following November,during a special program for the Aged,Mrs. Kang whispered into my ear: ‘myself and my husband are going to the temple on Wednesday next to say good-bye, and on the following Sunday we are going to the catholic church.’ That was exceedingly good news, and I was delighted to see them keep their good intention and to be baptised some months later:taking the names of Maria and Joseph. They continued to take great care of their grandson too, and on his First Holy Communion day I saw Maria weeping; she told me she envied children who had young mothers able to help and guide them. Maria and Joseph continued to live their happy lives and indeed I heard the priest giving them as an example of love for one another and fidelity:this they had been living all their lives together! Indeed they were a gift to our parish.
Some days before Maria died she told a friend that she was proud to die believing in God. May she (and Joseph and Andrew) live in everlasting peace.
Sr Elizabeth was missioned for many years in Korea and Britain. She is now residing in our Motherhouse in Magheramore, Ireland.