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‘A great dilemma for the Korean community’

andrew kim -As a mechanical engineer, Dr. Sang Young Son developed a wearable sensor that monitors children’s exposure to risky airborne particles.

As a devout Catholic, he wants to protect kids against spiritual pollution. 

STAKpDr. Son (top photo, left), who also goes by his patron-saint name Raphael, has been a member of St. Andrew Kim Korean Catholic Community for about a dozen years. The congregation comprises about 30 Korean-American families who live throughout Greater Cincinnati but who worship at St. Andrew Kim church in Colerain Township.

They recently exceeded their goal for One Faith, One Hope, One Love, and a portion of their local share will establish a summer camp for young children and teenagers.

“With that money, we wanted to focus on the soul,” said Dr. Son, founder and president of Enmont LLC, a company specializing in air-quality monitoring. He’s also an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering.

Dr. Son’s spiritual concerns include identity issues common among immigrant communities seeking to preserve their traditions as younger generations become more Americanized. An example: the Korean-language Masses at St. Andrew Kim.

“There is a generation gap,” Dr. Son said. “High school boys and girls are more frequently fluent in English than in Korean.

“They will say ‘I can’t understand what Father says at the Mass. Why should I go?’”

andrew kim courtHe calls the challenge “a great dilemma for the Korean community.”

“That is the dilemma of what we do,” he said. “It is now, and will be a dilemma for the future.”

Unyi Lai (top photo, right), a makeup artist for Estée Lauder,  joined St. Andrew Kim 32 years ago. She was baptized on Christmas Eve that year, then made her First Holy Communion on Christmas Day. At the time, the congregation shared space at the since-closed St. Mark Catholic Church in Evanston. The community “was very small when I came here, less than 20 people,” said Mrs. Lai, who also answers to the patron saint name Gemma.

It also was very new, established by five families in 1978. The community was based at Good Shepherd Church before moving to Evanston. Its various homes included St. Maximilian Kolbe Church and St. John the Evangelist before acquiring the current property, a former Protestant church. The Archdiocese officially recognized St. Andrew Kim as a parish in 1994.

Half-a-dozen priests have successively served St. Andrew Kim’s over those years, including a now-retired Maryknoll missioner who’d spent considerable time in Korea and could speak the language. Their current priest, Father Dong Hyuk Jeon (top photo, center), has been chaplain and administrator there for a little more than a year.

andrew kimCatholicism took root on the Korean Pensinsula during the 18th Century, first imported from the mainland by lay Korean scholars rather than directly introduced by foreign missionaries.

St. Andrew Kim Tageon, Korea’s first native priest, was beheaded in 1846 amid a persecution that also claimed more than a hundred others. All of them were canonized in 1984. Another 124 Korean martyrs were beatified by Pope Francis during his 2014 South Korean visit. (Photo at right shows St. Andrew Kim’s statue in the Korean Cincinnatians’ church.)

South Korea’s population today is about 11% Catholic (5.5 million), up from the mere half-million in 1960. (That continuing growth recently led the Catholic Herald to ask a few months ago whether Koreans are “the world’s most dynamic Catholics.”)

The most recent U.S. Census counted almost 200,000 Catholics of Korean descent, nearly 12% of the 1.7 million Korean-American population. More than 15,000 live in Ohio.

In Greater Cincinnati, “God is sending us new members,” Mrs. Lai said.

Dr. Son says the St. Andrew Kim community “is small, too small, but the Church is the same, big or small.”

1fhlkParticipating in initiatives of the larger Church is a priority for Father Jeon, who also serves a Korean Catholic group based at the Bergamo Center in Dayton. That belief is reflected in his successful leadership of St. Andrew Kim’s One Faith, One Hope, One Love campaign. (Photo, right, shows a campaign poster on a wall at the church where photos of all congregants are displayed.)

“Because we are a member of the archdiocese, joining the campaign is how it should be,” he said.

stak5“That is the simple answer. Religion is to see and to say yes without any question. Always participating – that is belief.”

In addition to St. Andrew Kim’s summer camp, another campaign-share priority is to fund retreats for adults and children alike. the community plans an overnight retreat this year at the St. Anne Retreat Center in Melbourne, Kentucky.  “We’ll give the retreat once a year, twice a year,” Dr. Son said. “We’ll increase the activity gradually. This year, we’ll have a one-night retreat, next year maybe two nights.”

Expenditures will come to $1,200 for the retreat, $500 for the summer camp, and $200 for three weeks of Bible classes. Plans are to increase spending for the latter two categories by a hundred dollars each in 2018. “Using the money to do that will be great,” Mrs. Lai said. “God always leads, so let God.”

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