By Tony C. Diaz
Umatuna Si Yu’os
Archbishop Michael Byrnes experienced the warm hospitality of the Korean people and the fervent faith of their Catholic community as St. Andrew Kim Catholic Church celebrated its 40th year anniversary and the feast of their patron Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 in Harmon, Dededo.
Celebrating his first festal Mass at St. Andrew Kim with parochial administrator Father Philip Byeon and other priests, Archbishop Byrnes expressed congratulations and gratitude to the congregation of about 200 people.
“I just want to say how happy I am to be here, to celebrate with you my brothers and sisters this great feast of St. Andrew Kim,” Archbishop Byrnes said during his homily.
“I don’t speak Korean but I certainly admire the testimony that he has given through his faithfulness and through his ability to extend the Gospel to so many people in such a way that others followed him in the same example of martyrdom.”
St. Andrew Kim was the first native Korean to become a priest and pastor. He and St. Paul Chŏng Hasañg were leaders of the Catholic Church in Korea and were among thousands of Catholic Koreans who died as martyrs professing their Christian faith from 1791 to 1866.
“From the earliest days of Christianity, there have been martyrs,” Archbishop said, aided by an interpreter. He explained that the word “martyr” is from the Greek word that means “witness.”
“When Jesus told the apostles, ‘You shall be my witnesses,’ he was giving instructions for all of us,” the archbishop said. “When he said that to the apostles, he meant to every Christian. Every Christian is to be a witness to Jesus.”
“And the event that Christians testify to is the resurrection of Jesus,” Archbishop Byrnes said. “That is the key event of the Christian faith.”
Saints such as St. Andrew Kim were willing to die while being devoted witnesses of Christ.
During the Mass for the canonization of Korean martyrs on May 6, 1984, then Pope John Paul II said this of St. Andrew Kim: “Yearning for an ever greater share in the Christian faith, your ancestors sent one of their own in 1784 to Peking, where he was baptized. From this good seed was born the first Christian community in Korea, a community unique in the history of the Church by reason of the fact that it was founded entirely by lay people.
“This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution,” now St. John Paul the Great said.
“Thus, in less than a century, it could already boast of some ten thousand martyrs. The years 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846 and 1866 are forever signed with the holy blood of your Martyrs and engraved in your hearts,” St. John Paul said.
Denying the ways of the secular world for the teachings and laws of Christ, Archbishop Byrnes explained how many of the early Christians were considered rebels and therefore dangerous.
“In the days of the Apostles, when they were brought to their deaths, it was because they proclaimed Jesus to be their king, not Caesar. They were convicted essentially on the charge of treason, that they owed their allegiance, first of all, to Jesus and only secondarily to Caesar.”
“Christians follow fundamentally, the law of love, the law of Christian love,” the archbishop said. “Love that denies oneself for the sake of giving to another.”
The archbishop closed with a question for everyone to think about:
“If it were illegal here on Guam for you to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you of that crime?”
Archbishop Byrnes let that thought sink in and closed his homily saying, “May St. Andrew Kim pray for us.”
A beautiful colored portrait of St. Andrew Kim sat below the altar surrounded by colorful flowers. After the Mass, Archbishop Byrnes, Father Philip, guest priests Fr. John Daesung Kim (visiting priest from Korea) and Fr. Dan Bien (pastor of Santa Barbara Church), Deacon Dominic Kim and the congregation participated in a procession after Mass and then enjoyed a wonderful meal at the social hall.
The church community of St. Andrew Kim was established 40 years ago in 1977 with 11 Korean Catholics first gathering and attending Mass at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Tamuning with the late Father James Che helping to nurture them pastorally.