The Quest and Fulfilment – Sr Rosarii’s Hallim Story Part III

cheju8Now, Sister Rosarii, we are moving further into the story of the Hallim Mission! So tell us, where did the quest start?


Sr Rosarii: The first  step  in our quest for customers  was  to set  up a small  shop  in Hallim,  right  on our  premises and assign  one of our employees  to manage  it. Here we displayed samples of our products and we were soon surprised at how popular our materials became.  Tourists, especially, frequent visitors to Hallim, bought our garments without demur at our prices.  Members of the US Peace Corps visited us and made many purchases.   Perhaps   these  latter  customers   were  responsible   for  the  great surprise  we experienced   one day  when  the  hum of a helicopter  overhead   attracted  our  attention. We  were  even  more  surprised   when  the  helicopter   landed  in  a  nearby  field  and  its  occupants headed towards  our shop. They were American naval servicemen working on a ship out at sea and they told us they had come to make some purchases.  That they did, but they weren’t finished yet.

WebEd: What do you mean?

Sr Rosarii: They told us of their  companions  at work  on the ship and asked  if some  of us would  go to measure these  men for garments  which  they  might  require.  Of course we agreed!  We would go with them the next day.  So it happened  that  once  again  the  helicopter  landed  near  us and  having  equipped us with  life jackets,  took  us on board  to where  their  ship  lay anchored.  Servicemen   were  awaiting us on deck  and after  we  had taken  their  measurements   and  orders  they  treated  us to a delicious lunch and brought  us back to our base,  having  first given  us an aerial  tour of parts  of the island.  A month later they were back to collect our work and pay us. We took this lovely experience to be a good omen for our sales and we began to look beyond  Hallim for customers.

cheju5Over in Seoul in the mid-sixties, contractors were completing one of the first very high-rise hotels in the city. It was to be called  the Chosun  Hotel, and we learned  that the building  would  include  many boutiques  for  customers   who  came  to  stay  or to shop.  Would  it be too  ambitious  for  us to try  to acquire  a space  for  our  products   in this  prestigious   place?  We had  been  blessed, so far in our mission to the Hallim  people;  perhaps  a new step in the direction  of Seoul would  also be blessed.

WebEd: The journey, the quest gets more and more intriguing!

Sr Rosarii: Fr.   McGlinchey    who    understood    our   hopes   for   expansion    visited    the   Chosun    and   quite unexpectedly met the manager of the hotel.  He found  out that there  was  still one vacant  space  for a high-class  shop  still  remaining   in the  premises.   Fr. McGlinchey   booked  the  shop  space  for  us without  hesitation  and soon we were  sending  our products  by air to the Chosun  Hotel Arcade  in the capital  city. We  employed   a manager  and two  assistants  to run this  new venture  and  before  long we learned  about  the unexpected  demand  there  was for our products.  This ensured  that there was plenty of work for those  we employed  in Hallim,  and as we progressed   in our weaving,  knitting  and crochet  areas  we  continued   to  perfect  our  work  and  to  add  new  products  for  sale.  Our shop in Seoul increased its customers beyond  all expectations.

From Seoul we turned our attention to Cheju City where we found  a space for our goods  in Korean Airlines  Arcade.   In this  situation  we  drew  the  attention  of hundreds  of travellers   and tourists  and our sales  increased  from  month  to month.  Hallim Handweavers had become a recognised centre for first-class goods.  On  our  side  we  had  sufficient   funds  with  which  to  pay  good  salaries  to  our staff  and good  prices  to our  knitters  and  crochet  workers.   But our premises and equipment  were becoming old and in some ways no longer fit to accommodate the volume of work which we were undertaking. It was time to look for replacements, but moving out of the Quonset huts would bring its own pangs of nostalgia for the days and years we spent there.

WebEd: Like moving out a much loved yet old house…

cheju3Sr Rosarii: Indeed! So in 1989 we spoke to Fr. McGlinchey about the need for a new building. He listened with great understanding and promised to take steps to replace the Quonsets. Soon after that meeting I went home for a holiday after which, in 1990, I returned to find a beautiful new two-storey concrete building standing in front of the largest of the Quonsets. The space offered by the new building would be a godsend for all of us. Now we could have all our activities under one roof together with a canteen and other modern amenities. We began moving almost at once, putting the looms on the second floor of the building and using the ground floor for offices, supplies and finished products, together with a display area where our products could be seen. It would be a joy to work in this bright airy building.

WebEd: So many things were fitting nicely into place!

Sr Rosarii: Well, sadly, long before the new building was up my two Sister companions in ministry had been called to other missions on the mainland. Sister Elizabeth left in 1967 for a new assignment in Mokpo while Sister Brid was called to Seoul in 1971. All three of us had given of our best to beginning and bringing the weaving industry forward. We had seen our staff grow in competency and loyalty to us and to one another. They could take it as a compliment that they were to be replacements in the industry for two of its founding members. I would be remaining in Jeju for some time yet, but not for too long.

WebEd: And what was the next ‘twist in the tale’ as Jeffery Archer would woo his readers with?


cheju9Sr Rosarii: I continued my usual ministry in the new facility and saw the industry grow and our co-workers become more competent in their different undertakings. After  eight  years a basic principle of missionary life  began  to  assert  itself  in  my  thoughts  and  reflections.  

It is the  policy  of  all missionaries that, when a local Church in any area of their mission has the means of providing for its own needs, the missionaries transfer to other areas where their ministries are required. In my case the truth was that the people who had been in employment in Hallim, Cheju City and Seoul had become sufficiently competent to carry on the industry without my presence, and although I knew that it would cost me much, both emotionally and practically, to move away from Hallim I knew that this was the correct move to make.

WebEd: You certainly were as true to your missionary call at that crucial time as you were when first assigned to Mokpo and then later to Hallim!

Sr Rosarii: I prayed that I was so! In 1998 I informed Fr. McGlinchey that I would be withdrawing from Hallim and that there were no Sisters available to replace me, and that neither was there need for anyone. Fr. McGlinchey met with two leading members of the handweaving industry and myself to discuss the possibility of the staff continuing the industry.  He thought that perhaps a few of the latter would take over the work in the new building, but in this he was disappointed. None of the employees wished to continue what we, Sisters Brid, Elizabeth and I had begun.

WebEd: That was difficult to hear, was it not?

Sr Rosarii: There was little more to be said; nowhere else to go. In the end  it was decided to sell off all the stocks, grant generous separation pay to the employees and give the building for the use of the parish.


And so Sister Rosarii continues: “One of the most difficult things a missionary must do before moving away from any mission is to say good-bye to the people amongst and with whom she or he has spent a number of years. So it was with Hallim and me. For thirty six years I had watched the people of the neighbourhood and far beyond develop a prosperous way of life through their work in the weaving industry. Together with my companion Sisters I had thanked God to see both women and men develop skills which would enrich their way of life and that of their families. I had seen children make progress in education thanks to the earning of their parents both on the site of the weaving and through the products created at home. I had been enriched by the friendship and loyalty of those with whom I had spent my energies, trying my best always to give witness to the values of the Gospel and gaining always from the cultural values inherent in the Korean way of life. I hold in my heart happy memories of relaxation days with the staff when we went off to some special place and enjoyed time together as we sang, danced and told stories. Hallim Handweavers was not all about work!

WebEd: Beautifully put, Rosarii. Thank you for your story and now let the final word come from you…

Sr Rosarii: As I left Hallim I entrusted the fruits of my thirty six years amongst its people to the generous blessing and care of God. May He guide them with his wisdom and keep them enfolded in his love!

For Part I of ‘Sister Rosarii’s Hallim Mission StoryClick here 

and for Part II of “Sister Rosarii’s Hallim Story click here

If you would like to know more about the Columban Sisters:
E-mail us :