Father John was born into a poor Catholic family in 1962, the ninth of ten children – another of whom has also been ordained. John’s father died when he was aged nine and John would also die at too early an age – succumbing to cancer of the colon in 2010.
After his father’s death John’s mother brought up the family by herself, counting the pennies earned from her work as a seamstress. They lived in the St Joseph Parish of Song Do in Pusan: a parish built for the poor and needy of Pusan, after the Korean War, which had left many Koreans destitute and unemployed.
John was helped through his studies by his mother who encouraged him to read medicine. On qualifying, he practised as a surgeon in the Korean army but repeatedly he felt the call to be a priest. His mother felt she had already given one son to the Church – his brother is a Capuchin friar – and initially she tried to deter John from entering the priesthood but ultimately gave her blessing. He was ordained in 2001.
It was while he was training for the priesthood that John visited the Salesian mission in southern Sudan. It was the first time he had been in a colony of lepers – men and women with Hansen’s disease. He was so disturbed by the rotting limbs and squalor that in a state of shock he went off into the bush to get the disturbing encounter out of his sight and mind. The Salesians working there did not expect to see the young army doctor again.
They were wrong.
This quote is from a Mercator article Don’t cry for me, Sudan. Read the rest, here. The video clip above is the first in a series of six. See the rest on You Tube.