NYC Korean Ministry Marks 20 Years

Gregory Chai Around the Province

On a busy street not far from the neighborhood in Manhattan known as Koreatown, a parish ministry has been serving Korean Catholics for two decades. Here, a longtime member of the St. Francis of Assisi Korean Ministry describes the annual events – one of which is this month – and the history of the ministry

NEW YORK — In 1997, Francis Kim, OFM, celebrated the first Mass designated especially for the 30 Korean Catholics who attended St. Francis of Assisi Parish. For two decades since, the parish on West 31st Street has been home to the growing Korean Ministry. The community set as its mantra to be a “giving community, living together” and has followed the footsteps of St. Francis by spreading love and by giving back to those who are marginalized and in need.

The Korean community has been active, offering participants a variety of programs, fundraisers and prayer services. “It is our mission to teach the love of God, and to follow the life of Jesus through prayer and community life,” according to the ministry’s description on the parish website.

Community Events
To witness Christ and to help with social relief, the Korean Ministry organizes two major events each year – the Love Concert in the fall and the Sharing Bazaar in the spring.

Last fall, the community marked its anniversary with music – the annual fall concert – and now plans are in the works for the annual bazaar, which is being held on May 20. In addition to selling donated items and traditional Korean foods, performers showcase Korean folk music and dance, which adds a cultural experience for visitors. The bazaar – a block party on Broadway between 30th and 31st streets in the midst of Koreatown – is being held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The “Love Concert” in November comprises the Korean Church choir as well as professional musicians from the Korean community who sing hymns and Korean folk songs, play classical music and perform traditional dance.

Proceeds from the bazaar and concert go to those in need. Past contributions have been made to the displaced people of North Korea, hurricane victims, St. Francis Breadline, Holy Name Province, and Digging Wells, an organization that provides fresh water in Africa.

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, said in a message in the 2017 concert program, “We congratulate the community for your 20 years of participation at St. Francis Parish. It is a wonderful cooperative venture between Holy Name Province and the Korean province to have a friar from Korea serving the community – one that our Fr. Francis Kim was instrumental in developing and a relationship in which he continues to serve as a driving force in the background.

“We are grateful for your participation at St. Francis Church and for your generosity,” he added. “The community’s love for family and for community life is an inspiration to all.”

Sacraments and Sunday School
The Korean community has achieved remarkable growth since its establishment in 1997.

Participants in the Korean community are diverse in age. They have the opportunity to join more than 10 groups to volunteer and serve God, each in his or her own way. Most of these groups are served by the Young Adults Group, consisting of more than 150 young believers. Because the church is located in the heart of the city, many are study abroad students, second generation youth, and visitors from around the world. The Franciscan Young Adults of New York, known as FYNY, provides several opportunities for service such as bible study, holy spiritual prayer group, and two choirs.

Every year, during Easter and Christmas the community holds confirmation and baptism ceremonies. Over the last 20 years, the community has welcomed close to 600 confirmed believers and 580 total believers, including infants and children. On Easter, 20 adults were confirmed. During Lunar New Year and on Korean Thanksgiving Day, the Korean community praises God and prays for his mercy. Through memorial and traditional Mass, we send our gratitude for eternal life for our ancestors who have died.

More than 30 children are registered in Hangul Korean School and Sunday School through which they establish faith and Korean identity through education.

Roughly 400 members attend Sunday Mass, and more than 100 young adults join the Young Adults Mass on the second Sunday of each month.

We appreciate the 10 years that Fr. Francis devoted to helping develop the congregation. He is now focused on expanding the 90-acre St. Francis Village Farm in western New Jersey and we usually see him once or twice a month.

The ministry’s current friar liaison is Fr. Michael Kim, OFM, a resident of St. Francis Friary on West 31st Street and a member of St. Benedict Province in Korea. In addition, a nun serves the Korean community as a leader, and the pastoral ministry oversees finances and administration.

“The Korean ministry is a cultural extension of our parish,” said Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor. “We are  happy to have its members with us.”

Gregory Chai is chair of the Love Concert Board and former chair of the Korean Laymen’s Committee.

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