Meet Columban Sister Theresa Kim
Born in Jeju Island, South Korea, Sister Theresa Kim is one of a family of six.
She was educated at Dong Nam Primary School, Sung San Middle School and Shin Sung High School all in Jeju.
She then went on to study Microbiology at Bukyeng University in Busan.
She worked in a kindergarten run by the St. Paul of Chartre Sisters for four years before joining the Columban Sisters in 2001
She is presently at the Motherhouse of the Columban Sisters at Magheramore, Wicklow, Ireland, preparing for her mission assignment. She tells us the story of her vocation……..
“I grew up surrounded by nature in Jeju Island in the south of Korea. I have one sister and four brothers. Accompanied by my family and friends, I used to pick up shells and catch fish. Often I played in the grounds of my parish church, which was administered by a Columban priest. I still remember how Fr. Howard Eisel milked the cows and shared the milk with the parishioners.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was the first Catholic in my family. During school vacation my parents used to take me to my grandparents’ home. My grandmother went to church early every morning and she always said the rosary. That is my memory of her. I didn’t get on well with her but later I realised that she influenced my faith a lot. I was baptised as Theresa when I was three months old. My family called me Theresa rather than Tae Hyang, my Korean name, even though my father was not a catholic at that time. My mother always dedicated some time to working in our parish. When I was 10 years old he was baptised and then he was more involved in the parish than my mother.
I was very sick when I was a child. My parents took me to several hospitals, but I didn’t get better. Finally they took me to the Hanlim clinic run by the Columban Sisters in Jeju. I first met a nun who was a doctor. She was very tall and had a pale face with a great smile. I felt at ease without the fear which I used to feel at the hospital. I was well treated and then recovered my health. It was my first impression of the Columban Sisters even thought at the time I did not know who they were. After I joined the Congregation I discovered that they were Columban Sisters. I felt that this was not a coincidence.
As I grew up I doubted God’s presence and I couldn’t find meaning in going to church. During those years we had a problem in the family. As I look back I know we got many graces which helped deepen my faith.
While I was going to the university in Busan I came home for my summer vacation. I spent most of my vacation in the Summer School. I really enjoyed that time with the children and catechists. I felt deep joy in doing this, different from any feeling I experienced before. After graduating from the university I came home and I worked by chance in the kindergarten run by the St. Paul of Chartre Sisters in my parish. I took part in parish activities i.e. as catechist, choir member and member of the Legio Marie. Through this time I could see how lovely children were and what religious life was. While working in the kindergarten I became interested in special education for children. I stopped work to prepare the next step of my future. I was still a catechist and I attended Mass everyday as the kindergarten principal, a St. Paul of Chartre Sister, suggested to me. At first I went to church without much thought, but little by little I felt enriched by the Mass. In my twenties I was full of life but sometimes I felt there was something missing and I didn’t know what it was.
One day during Mass the idea struck me deeply that religious life was significant. I had not thought about that since I was a teenager. I had a dream that after studying special education I would go abroad to work for children. I started to think of my vocation and I remembered the brochure that Fr. Jimmy Nolan gave me when he visited my parish. I found the brochure of the St. Columban Sisters and looked at it in detail. I was impressed by one Sister photographed with children in Peru. Since I doubted my vocation I didn’t contact the Sisters for a long time. However after contacting them I really felt at home and I asked to join them.
As a pre-novice and novice I had time to develop as a person both at a human and spiritual level even though this was not an easy time. I really appreciate our congregation. I was in Burma for three months during my novitiate formation and the experience there encouraged me to continue my journey as a missionary Sister. I learned how to live and exercise my faith, in times of difficulty, from the people of Burma. They have strong faith. I felt that God was with me as well as with them.
After First Profession I was assigned to the Kuduri community in Korea. I worked in our nursing home. There I experienced God’s Love shown to me through those who accepted me as I am.
In the following one and a half years I experienced many things. I went to Scotland and England to study English and I came to Magheramore, which is the motherhouse of the Congregation. I had a fruitful time during the the Summer of 2007 when I participated in an Intercultural Formation Programme for Columban Sisters. I felt more deeply the charism of our Congregation and became more mature as a person. The time with the participants was a time of many graces. for me. It was also a great privilege to meet our Sisters who live in Magheramore and those who come on vacation from the missions.
Now I am staying in Magheramore to prepare for the next part of my journey – Renewal of Vows and mission. I believe that I am blessed to be here. I am enjoying my time with our Sisters and imbibing the spirit of mission and our charism from them. The life of our Sisters here in Magheramore reminds me of John 13:35:
“This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)”
Teresa Kim is missioned to Mandalay, Myanmar since 2008.
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