Locals in colourful Hanbok

By Linda Edward

POTUKI, Penampang – It was a unique assimilation of culture when the local faithful of Kg Potuki attended Mass on Jan 5, dressed in colourful ‘Hanbok’, the traditional Korean dress worn during festivals or celebrations.

This beautiful sight was meant to honour the sacerdotal anniversaries of two Korean priests, Fr Lawrence Kim who  celebrates his 20th anniversary and Fr Andrew Kim, his 3rd sacerdotal.

According to the priests, this was their first big anniversary celebration accompanied by many people, sumptous lunch, music and singing.

“It was not possible to hold a blaring celebration like this in South Korea, as Korean culture is quite private,” said Fr Andrew, and furthermore there is also hindrance from the authority.

Thus, the people of Potuki and the management of Woori Jib Home proposed the idea to hold the celebration this year as it is a norm for the locals to celebrate their local priests’ anniversaries.

Both priests thanked the congregation for their sincere consideration of them, for without the help of the locals, they said, it would be very hard for them, considering the barrier in language and culture. But now both of them are already able to say Mass in English and Bahasa.

More than 200 people, not only from Potuki, but from other area of Penampang, came for the celebration. Fr Wilfred Atin, parish priest of Penampang and Fr Stephen Lee, a visiting priest from South Korea were also present.

Fathers Lawrence and Andrew are from the Clerical Society of the Most Holy Trinity of Mirinae based in Diocese of Suwon.

They arrived in Kota Kinabalu in March 2017 and established an Orphanage Home in Potuki together with Fr Leo Choi Sangki (the founder), and Woori Jib religious items shop in March 2018 at ITCC, Penampang.

With their charisms of vocation, they are now entering their fourth year serving the people in this part of the world.

Fr Lawrence Kim, or Jinsu Kim before ordained, Jinsu Kim, was born on Nov 25, 1970 in Wonju city in South Korea. His father is Manheung Kim and mother, SookJung Lee and has two brothers and three sisters. Let’s hear from him.

WHERE have you served before coming to Sabah?

Fr Lawrence said he lived a life that is a little different from other priests when he was made head of different ministries.

“I worked in a parish for nine years…a spiritual director for my congregation…a director of Mirinae shrine where I’ve offered my daily life for the development of this biggest shrine in Korea. I was hospitalized due to injury during labour while developing the shrine.

“Then for four years, I was a pastor for Korean people  in a parish in United States. I was a director of the congregation branch in Pear Farm in Icheon, and renewed the agricultural farm system which made double output in three years.

“When I was a director of a hospital in Daegu, I visited patients and celebrated Mass everyday in the chapel of that hospital,” explained Fr Lawrence.

He said all these previous ministries have become a foundation for his ministry in Sabah. Above all this, he emphasized, “the most important thing is to do what the Lord wants in Sabah and to follow His will and to build the Kingdom of God here and now with you.”

Tell us how you were inspired to be a priest.

“When I was young, there were many issues that have affected my views, for example,  conflicts in human relation, suffering, poverty and sicknesses of society. Due to this, I always tried to live responsibly.

The decisive factor of my vocations started in the 80’s when I was in high school. My hometown, Wonju city, has a small chapel without a priest and there were a few laity. However, with the help of an eager young man, Sunday School was formed.

A nun came to help the youth at that time and taught us catechism every week. I was so impressed when she prayed with calm and peace. I became curious about religious life and my desire to become a priest grew stronger.

This motivated me and led me to decide to become a priest and later entered the congregation.”

What appealed to you most in being a priest?

“I like to study and understand the Bible and the doctrines of the Church.  I wish to make God known to the people and make them recognize God’s existence by preaching and homily.”

What is your mission in the priestly ministry?

“Looking at the lack of priests in Southeast Asia,  my mission is to proclaim God’s Word to the local people and lead them to God’s kingdom.

It is also to help the development of the diocese and the community and to call on the candidates of priesthood. Helping them in their vocation and build ing training centers (by my congregation) help the diocese, which in turn further develop this congregation.”

Tell us your experiences serving the local people in Penampang?

“Firstly, I need to adapt to the language and the culture. I have had little experience here.

However, I take groceries and school supplies deep into the village and share with the locals. At times, I try to help poor families with practical help. In addition, we gather the poorest children in local towns, where they are difficult to be cared for by their parents. We prepare the house (Woori Jib), nourish them and send them to school, teach them the Christian life and support their training to adapt to life in the society.

Sometimes I also help to celebrate Mass in the busy parishes such as in Penampang.

Your message to the people, Father?

“Through religious life, the life of the poor is directed towards the life of sharing. So it is important to live a life that shares with others not only in material things but also in the talents the Lord has given us.

The Lord did not love any particular people, so I must try to serve everyone, not just my family or those associated with me.

Jesus is a man, who until the very last hour of his death, tried to follow God’s will. We must seek and follow the will of God, not our own will.”

Fr Andrew Kim, also known as Youngjung Kim, was born Nov 27, 1987 in Jeonju city. He’s very acquainted with the locals. He’s on his third year priestly mission and said he meditates on it as “three years of public life of 33-year old Jesus”.

ANDREW was ordained to the priesthood on Jan 11, 2017  after joining the seminary in 2006, in the same Church as Fr Lawrence, The Church of the commemoration of the 103 Korean Martyrs canonized in 1984, under the Diocese of Suwon.

Immediately after being ordained, Fr Andrew was posted to Kota Kinabalu  Archdiocese and has been here for almost three years.

He is the eldest with a younger sister to father, Bernald Kim and mother, Theresa Byeon.

The 33-year old young priest said his hobby is playing the piano.

Tell us about your priestly ministry here.

“I spent most of my three years’ priestly life here in Sabah.

Starting my priesthood here, many things were unfamiliar to me; the language and the culture is very different from Korea.

In particular, it was challenging to celebrate Mass in a strange Malaysian language and in English.

Indeed, there are still many difficulties due to language barrier.

But with the help and support of many believers, I have overcome many difficulties, and now in turn it seems strange to celebrate Mass in Korean.

I really thank the villagers, especially here in Potuki.

I make a lot of mistakes.

As a foreign priest living in an unfamiliar environment, sometimes the days can become difficult and lonely, but I am happy to live here thanks to the help and prayers of the believers in the village.

 But I’m a human being. Sometimes I make a lot of mistakes, and show a lot of flaws.

But I always try to overcome my lack through prayers.

Third year priesthood.

Throughout the short three years of priesthood, I am learning a lot from many believers in Sabah, and I want to spiritually grow more through many experiences with believers.

Three-year priesthood is still short but I meditate on it as the three years of Jesus’ public life, who was 33 years old when he started.              

This year, I am 33 years old like Jesus, and on my third year of priesthood. So for year 2020, I want to imitate Jesus’ life.

On living a consecrated life.

“The consecrated life participates in the mission of the Church by means of complete dedication to Christ and to one’s brothers and sisters, witnessing to the hope of the heavenly Kingdom.

I want to live here in Sabah for God’s people without forgetting my promises to God as priest and religious.

The anointing of the Spirit seals the priest with an indelible, spiritual character that configures him to Christ the priest and enables him to act in the name of Christ, the Head.

In my life, I must always testify to hope for God, and in my consecrated life, there are many temptations and difficulties. Even though I sometimes shed tears and frustration because of these difficulties, I promise to live with hope only in God.

Pray for me and other priests.

Please pray for me that I will always be a Christlike priest. A priest always needs not only his prayer but also the prayers of believers.

Even if I sometimes lack, please pray for me before criticising.

 And please pray also for other priests. Priests are not perfect beings but are seeking perfection in life with God.

 I am a priest and also a religious. So pray that I can keep my priestly ministry, poverty, obedience and chastity as a religious.

Leave it all to God.

If God gives me a chance, I want to be here  (in Sabah) until the moment I die.

But I don’t know what God’s will is, so I leave everything to God, and I want to live this moment joyfully in the Lord.

By Linda Edward