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EPISODE#57
CATHEDRAL SQUARE: GUEST IS FR. EUGENE LEE

Welcome to another episode of Cathedral Square featuring your host, Fr. Christopher Smith.

On this week’s program, we check-in with Fr. Eugene Lee. He is the Director of the Korean Martyrs Catholic Center in Westminster. What is the difference between a Catholic center versus a parish? Tune in and find out.

And, while you’re at it, be sure to share this podcast!

 

 

 

 

 

Original broadcast date 6/5/21

THOUSANDS REMEMBER VIETNAMESE MARTYRS

It has become one of the most important dates on the local Vietnamese calendar. On Saturday, Nov. 23, for the first time, Christ Cathedral played host to a procession and Mass in tribute of Vietnamese martyrs. 

Thousands of congregants gathered at the cathedral and campus grounds to celebrate the feast day, technically on Nov. 24, honoring the 117 faith leaders and unknown companions killed in Vietnam and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988. 

It is estimated that countless Catholics in Vietnam were persecuted and as many as 300,000 killed beginning in the late 18th century and lasting more than 60 years. These include Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc, a patron saint of the Diocese of Orange, and 21 missionaries from France and Spain, slain in Vietnam. 

Since the group was canonized, Vietnamese Catholics have held annual ceremonies to commemorate the martyrs. In past years, Orange County Vietnamese Catholics, under the auspices of the Vietnamese Catholic Center, have packed the 6,000-seat Bren Center at the University of California, Irvine, and prior to that at Santa Ana Stadium. 

This year, the Bishop of Orange, Most Reverend Kevin Vann, invited Vietnamese congregants to come to Christ Cathedral Campus. The Diocese of Orange is home to the largest Vietnamese Catholic diaspora in the country. 

The event began with a festive two-hour procession with members the diocese’s 16 parishes with large Vietnamese contingents. Carrying banners from churches and statues, including Our Lady of La Vang, the procession wound around the outer edge of the cathedral. Participants with tickets were allowed inside and filled the church to capacity. 

The celebration featured two drum corps, speakers, liturgical dancers and a re-enactment, “The Sacrifice of Our Martyrs,” depicting the persecution of early Catholics in Vietnam. 

After the celebration, Bishop Vann and Auxiliary Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen, celebrated a bilingual Mass. During his homily, Bishop Nguyen said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church in Vietnam. Today we celebrate the feast of our ancestors. We thank God for their strong faith. At the same time, we ask them to intercede for us that we are able to pass on the tradition, the legacy they have left for us.” 

Bishop Nguyen continued to note the lesson of all martyrs since St. Stephen has been one of forgiveness.  After the Mass, Bishop Nguyen laid hands on parishioners who queued up, while Bishop Vann posed for photographs. 

“What a great celebration,” said Father Vincent Pham, director of the Vietnamese Center. “It was a blessing for Bishop Vann to have it in this pretty cathedral. It was a wonderful, fabulous celebration.” 

Because of the popularity of the event, admission into the cathedral was ticketed. Outdoor tented seating for 1,500 was provided and the celebration and Mass were broadcast on wide screens. 

“I am privileged to join Orange County’s Vietnamese community in honoring the sacrifice and courage of these many holy martyrs. They gave themselves readily in defense of their beliefs and faith,” Bishop Nguyen, who serves as the only Vietnamese Catholic bishop in the United States, said in a statement.  

Because of the overflow attendance, Father Vincent Pham said plans are underway to stage the event outdoors on the campus grounds next year.  

‘A NIGHT OF WITNESS’ SERVICE RECALLS LIFE, FAITH OF TODAY’S MARTYRS

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic churches throughout the world were bathed in soft red light to honor martyrs and mark the “Courage in Red — Stand Up for Faith and Religious Freedom” campaign sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need. 

So it was Nov. 28 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where a quiet vespers service, “A Night of Witness,” commemorated the martyrdom, just in the last two years, of some 22 members of the priesthood, most of them in Mexico and South America, and 82 others killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Egypt. 

Most martyrs are killed anonymously while simply going about their jobs before being caught up in the violence from civil wars and terrorist groups. 

“They may not be on the covers of magazines. They may not ever make the news. But they gave their blood for the church,” observed Msgr. Vito Buonanno, director of pilgrimages at the basilica. 

“Tonight, we seek to remember all of them,” said George Marlin, chairman of Aid to the Church in Need, is an international papal charity that provides pastoral and humanitarian aid to persecuted and oppressed Christians and supports various church projects in more than 140 countries. 

“The church has lived through many periods of persecution, claiming the lives of millions,” Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, reminded worshippers during his testimony. “Christianity is the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally.” 

“The church in Iraq,” he said, “is a martyr church. Since 2003, 61 churches and shrines were burned, destroyed or bombed. Over 25,000 homes seized. 150,000 Christians were displaced, and most since 2014. Countless Christians have been kidnapped or murdered. 

“We are closer to God in our suffering. St. Paul said, ‘I want to know Christ.’ Yes. To know the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, becoming like him, in his death,” the archbishop continued. 

“Our persecution continues to make us a church of peace and reconciliation, transforming us into an apostolic missionary church,” he added. “The first church recognized the primacy of God in which our live and our being has lived. The church never lost its faith during persecution, but bore everything with a great confidence that the victory is always for God.” 

Bishop Oliver D. Doeme of Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, experienced 1,500 killed in his diocese by members of Boko Haram since 2009. Members believe “women’s education is evil, so it should be eliminated, and Christianity, according to them, should also be eliminated.” 

With the group now largely driven out, Christians returned to find houses of worship destroyed, “but the good news, is that our people have unshakable faith,” Bishop Doeme said. 

Sister Annie Demerjian, whose ministry with the Sisters of Jesus and Mary has been in Aleppo, Syria, spoke of the long-term damage to children from the ongoing civil war there. 

“Many people feel suffering from the consequence of the war. Healing of memories and healing of wounds, it will take years and years. This war has astonished many nations by its violence and brutality. It has robbed children of their childhood and innocence …” 

“In the time in which we moved from (our) school and we shared another school, we shared afternoon times at school. And our little children, 4 years old, they were carrying (flashlights) in their hands. And when it became dark, they put it on, and they continued their lessons. For me, it taught me a lot. Even though they are little — small angels — they can adapt themselves to the situation we are facing.” 

After the end of the conflict, she warned, children “will be stamped by this negative attitude of violence.” Those born during the war, “all what they saw were violence, destruction and death. Many children stayed without education.” 

In a century of continuing scientific advances, “How come men have not yet found a way of living in harmony, justice and peace with one another?” she asked. 

Other services in the preceding days were held at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn, New York, St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen, New Jersey, and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Florida. Those churches and the national shrine in Washington were illuminated at dusk by red lights. 

The “Courage in Red’ campaign in previous years has illuminated Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament in London, the Colosseum in Rome and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. 

This year’s “Courage in Red” also illuminated landmarks including Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris, Westminster Cathedral in London and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, as well as the Rialto Bridge and parts of the Grand Canal there.

‘A NIGHT OF WITNESS’ SERVICE COMMEMORATES LIFE, FAITH OF TODAY’S MARTYRS

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic churches throughout the world were bathed in soft red light to honor martyrs and mark the “Courage in Red — Stand Up for Faith and Religious Freedom” campaign sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need.

So it was Nov. 28 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where a quiet vespers service, “A Night of Witness,” commemorated the martyrdom, just in the last two years, of some 22 members of the priesthood, most of them in Mexico and South America, and 82 others killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Egypt.

Most martyrs are killed anonymously while simply going about their jobs before being caught up in the violence from civil wars and terrorist groups.

“They may not be on the covers of magazines. They may not ever make the news. But they gave their blood for the church,” observed Msgr. Vito Buonanno, director of pilgrimages at the basilica.

“Tonight, we seek to remember all of them,” said George Marlin, chairman of Aid to the Church in Need, is an international papal charity that provides pastoral and humanitarian aid to persecuted and oppressed Christians and supports various church projects in more than 140 countries.

“The church has lived through many periods of persecution, claiming the lives of millions,” Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, reminded worshippers during his testimony. “Christianity is the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally.”

“The church in Iraq,” he said, “is a martyr church. Since 2003, 61 churches and shrines were burned, destroyed or bombed. Over 25,000 homes seized. 150,000 Christians were displaced, and most since 2014. Countless Christians have been kidnapped or murdered. A bishop, three bishops and six deacons were murdered.

“We are closer to God in our suffering. St. Paul said, ‘I want to know Christ.’ Yes. To know the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, becoming like him, in his death,” the archbishop continued.

“Our persecution continues to make us a church of peace and reconciliation, transforming us into an apostolic missionary church,” he added. “The first church recognized the primacy of God in which our live and our being has lived. The church never lost its faith during persecution, but bore everything with a great confidence that the victory is always for God.”

Bishop Oliver D. Doeme of Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, experienced 1,500 killed in his diocese by members of Boko Haram since 2009. Members believe “women’s education is evil, so it should be eliminated, and Christianity, according to them, should also be eliminated.”

With the group now largely driven out, Christians returned to find houses of worship destroyed, “but the good news, is that our people have unshakable faith,” Bishop Doeme said.

Sister Annie Demerjian, whose ministry with the Sisters of Jesus and Mary has been in Aleppo, Syria, spoke of the long-term damage to children from the ongoing civil war there.

“Many people feel suffering from the consequence of the war. Healing of memories and healing of wounds, it will take years and years. This war has astonished many nations by its violence and brutality. It has robbed children of their childhood and innocence …”

“In the time in which we moved from (our) school and we shared another school, we shared afternoon times at school. And our little children, 4 years old, they were carrying (flashlights) in their hands. And when it became dark, they put it on, and they continued their lessons. For me, it taught me a lot. Even though they are little — small angels — they can adapt themselves to the situation we are facing.”

After the end of the conflict, she warned, children “will be stamped by this negative attitude of violence.” Those born during the war, “all what they saw were violence, destruction and death. Many children stayed without education.”

In a century of continuing scientific advances, “How come men have not yet found a way of living in harmony, justice and peace with one another?” she asked.

Other services in the preceding days were held at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn, New York, St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Metuchen, New Jersey, and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Florida. Those churches and the national shrine in Washington were illuminated at dusk by red lights.

The “Courage in Red’ campaign in previous years has illuminated Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament in London, the Colosseum in Rome and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

This year’s “Courage in Red” also illuminated landmarks including Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris, Westminster Cathedral in London and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, as well as the Rialto Bridge and parts of the Grand Canal there.

COMMUNITY AND CONVICTION

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” wrote theologian Tertullian in 197 AD. Although Catholicism is rooted in far more than martyrdom, thousands have given their lives through the centuries for their faith.  

Korean Catholics, in particular, understand what martyrdom is all about.  

More than 10,000 Korean Catholic martyrs died in the 19th century, so that future generations could flourish – in their homeland and throughout the world. California has by far the largest Korean population in the U.S., and Orange County is home to the second-largest number of Koreans among U.S. counties. Some 94,000 reside here.  

Korean Catholics remember and honor their martyrs on a daily basis. “Our martyrdom is deeply ingrained in the Korean Catholic community,” says Fr. Eugene Lee, Director of the Korean Martyrs Catholic Center, in Westminster. “We stress the sacrifice that was paid by our ancestors.”  

Catholicism first took root in Korea after traders returning from China shared the Catechism and theological books that were studied by a group of scholars.  

“The first Koreans who read these books found them to be immensely refreshing,” Fr. Lee says. “Korean society had been suffocated by a rigid, stratified system. There was a royal class, an upper class, and middle, low and the lowest classes. Nobody had any chance of social mobility. But Catholicism showed how everyone was equal under God.” 

The message spread throughout the country. When Jesuit priest Gregorio Céspedes first arrived in 1593, he discovered that Catholicism was already being practiced. “Catholicism in Korea was started by the people themselves,” Fr. Lee says, “not by missionaries.” 

“Korea is one of the only places that was lay evangelized,” says Linda Ji, Director of the Diocese’s Office of Pastoral Care. “It wasn’t colonial. We take great pride in this.” 

Centuries later, those in power saw the religion and its message of equality as a significant threat, so they persecuted the Korean Catholics.  

“There are some brutal, gut-wrenching stories about the martyrdom,” Fr. Lee says. “Koreans watched family members being tortured to death for refusing to give up their faith.” 

“Today, many Korean families can trace their history back to a martyr,”
Ji says. 

The most prominent martyrs include Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and 101 of their followers (called “companions”). All were canonized in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. And Paul Yun Ji Chung and 123 companions were beatified by Pope Francis in 2014. 

The first Korean faith community in Orange County, the Korean Martyr Catholic Center, was established in 1977. St. Thomas Korean Catholic Center, in Anaheim, followed 10 years later. Our Lady of Peace Korean Catholic Church was established in Irvine in 2009; the church’s original group attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church starting in 1996. And the Korean Order of Discalced Carmelites, a religious order of men, is located in La Habra.  

The core beliefs, customs and observances among Korean Catholics are virtually identical to those practiced by other Catholics. A few elements, however, distinguish their community from the rest of the Diocese. 

“Korean Catholics are especially reverent and pious,” Fr. Lee says. “Everyone dresses conservatively. Everyone shows up on time, and they never leave early. Their piety, devotion and reverence really stand out. 

“There’s a very real sense of investment in the community,” he adds. “Well over half [of the parishioners] are involved in something beyond attending Sunday Mass.”  

Korean Catholics like to add a few vibrant cultural elements into the mix. For example, “Kids spend all day [at the Korean Martyr Catholic Center] on Saturday,” Fr. Lee says. “They go to Catechism, then language school, followed by cultural school. Children play Korean drums and learn Korean calligraphy. The girls perform our fan dance. The adults have a drumming group as well. We have a variety of groups, something for everyone.” 

Yeondo, a Korean Catholic ritual, honors those who have died. Psalms and the Litany of the Saints are chanted in distinctive Korean rhythms and tones. 

“It’s traditionally done in the house [of the deceased],” Fr. Lee says. “People come throughout the entire day. They bow and place incense next to a shrine for the loved one.” 

Yeondo, Ji says, is also observed on All Soul’s Day and during Chuseok (“autumn eve”), the Korean lunar harvest festival.  

Today, the future looks bright for Korean Catholics, near and far.  

For example, Fr. Lee notes that,
“At the Korean Martyr Catholic Center and St. Thomas, we’ve never had a
time when we didn’t have someone in formation.” 

Ji concurs. “We have many seminarians who are on their way to priesthood. It’s been such a blessing.” 

It’s but one of many blessings. More than 100 years ago, Korean martyrs died for their future generations. 

“The persecution never suppressed the faithful,” Ji says. “Rather, the martyrs inspired them.”