FATHER LUCIUS (KONRAD) ROTH, S.T.D.
(19 February 1890 – 3 October 1950)
Konrad Roth was born in Weichtungen, which belongs to the parish of Wermerichshausen, in the District of Bad Kissingen on 19 February 1890. His parents, Isidor Roth and his wife Katharina, née Reiher, were farmers. There are no concrete documents about the family except for a letter of Fr. Lucius to his sister, Sister M. Ositha in Brazil (b. 1894 and joined the Tutzing Benedictine Sisters). Thus one sister had joined the convent, evidence that a true religious spirit reigned in his parents’ house.
Konrad’s talent and piety motivated the assistant priest Georg Döhling of Löhrit to instruct him privately and in eighteen months he prepared him to the fourth class of the gymnasium. In August 1904 he recommended his student to the superior of the priory at St. Ludwig on the Main on account of his extraordinary diligence and his deep religious spirit. He went immediately to the private gymnasium at St. Ottilien and took his final exams in 1909 in Günzburg on the Danube.
In September 1909 Konrad entered St. Ottilien. In the novitiate he received the name Lucius. He made his profession on 16 October 1910. Because of his giftedness and his serious approach to monastic life, the superiors sent him to Sant’ Anselm in Rome, the Order’s school for higher studies. He made his solemn profession on 16 October 1913. In 1914 he earned a doctorate in theology in Rome. However, because of the war he had to continue and finish his theology studies in Munich. On 5 July 1914 he was ordained a priest in St. Apollinare in Rome by Basilius Cardinal Pompilj.
Soon a special task awaited the young priest. The apostolic nuncio, Eugenio Pacelli, was looking for some assistants and secretaries for the nuntiature in Munich. Fr. Lucius and another religious were given to him. The nuncio appreciated the diligence, conscientiousness and subtle style of Fr. Lucius very much. He remained in Munich until 1924. On 17 August 1924 he was sent to Korea. After a short time as an assistant in Ryouktohpou, he became the parish priest in Wonsan, the seat of the apostolic vicar whose representative he was until he moved to the newly founded Tokwon abbey in 1927. A further position of trust was assigned him when in August 1930 the prior Father Chrysostom was called to St. Ottilien as the coadjutor abbot. Now Fr. Lucius became the prior and vicar general in addition to teaching in the seminary that had been established there together with a minor seminary. Along with these posts he was also a teacher of Korean to the newcomers from Europe and a translator of the Missal and the Brothers’ Office into Korean.
There must have been a very good spirit in the community of Towkon. The seminary, too, enjoyed a high reputation throughout the country and trained priests for the whole country. Father Lucius was one of the leading monks and exerted all his energy in his responsible positions. As a superior and as a man averse to communism, he was arrested on 9 May 1949 and brought to the prison in Pyongyang. As a dangerous criminal––in the eyes of the communists––he was not among those who were designated for the internment camp of Oksadok. On 3 October 1950 Fr. Lucius was executed, apparently after prior proceedings. The execution would have been connected with severe tortures. Only after a few years news leaked out in whispers that it may have been that after the execution of the criminals what was left of them was cleaned away from the place of execution with a shovel. Pope Pius XII, who made inquiries after Fr. Lucius at every opportunity, expressed special sympathy at the fate of Fr. Lucius in Pyongyang.
Father Lucius Roth
There were many courageous and strong people in Weichtungen who, in the face of death, stood on their principles and their faith. This article from the Sonntagsblatt, the newspaper of the Diocese of Würzburg, highlights the life and death of Dr. Lucius Roth, a native of Weichtungen.
Penned in like pigs
The Benedictine priest, Dr. Lucius Roth, was brutally executed after seventeen months in prison in North Korea.
Seven hundred men and women were included in the German Martyrologium of the twentieth century. Included among them are martyrs from the Diocese of Würzburg. The Sonntagsblatt has inquired among the relatives of these new martyrs and with the help of the martyrology has put together a portrait of these witnesses for Christ. The second part of the series features the life and death of the Benedictine priest Dr. Lucius Roth who came from Weichtungen near Bad Kissingen. He died in North Korea.
The Benedictine priest Dr. Lucius Rother spent almost seventeen months in inhuman conditions in a communist prison in North Korea. On 3 October 1950 he was executed. Father Lucius Roth died as a witness for Christ, as a victim of communist tyranny.
“During the night of 9 May 1949 the North Korean communist regime seized our Tokwon Abbey in Korea and arrested the superiors. Two days afterwards, all the priests and European brothers and sisters were led off to the prison in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city. One part of the prisoners was transferred in June and August of the same year respectively to the special camp of Oksadok. Eight German confreres and four Korea priests were held back in the Pyongyang prison. They were sentenced to five to seven years of strict imprisonment because of their “bad attitude.” That meant because of their anti-communist position. We owe this news to a secret letter of Father Lucius Roth written from prison to a Korean confrere. Of these eight German prisoners his Excellency Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer died on 7 February 1950 and Fr. Rupert Klingseis, S.T.D. on 6 April the same year. Of the remaining prisoners that were kept back, we have had no further information whatsoever since the fall of 1949, in spite of frequent investigations. So we must accept with certainty that they died in prison of exhaustion or in some way died a violent death as witnesses to Christ.” The large death announcement sheet from St. Ottilien Archabbey of 1 February 1957 then mentions successively the names of the martyrs. Among them are Fr. Lucius Roth, S.T.D., prior and vicar general of Tokwon, who came from Weichtungen and Brother Gregor Giegerich who was born in Grosswallstadt.
Five sisters in the convent
Konrad Roth, who later received the religious name of Lucius, was born as the son of the farmers Isidor and Katharina Roth, née Reiher, in Weichtungen near Bad Kissingen on 19 February 1890. His mother died early on and the father married a second time. All his five sisters chose the religious life; the local assistant priest Georg Döhling prepared him within eighteen months for the fourth class in the gymnasium. On account of his extraordinary diligence and his deep sense of religiosity he recommended his student to the superiors of the priory at St. Ludwig on the Main in August 1904. He went immediately to the private gymnasium at St. Ottilien. Konrad sat for his final exams at the humanities gymnasium in Günzburg in 1909 and “according to the results of the same is declared qualified to transfer to a university,” as it is noted in the final report. The nineteen-year old decided to enter the Benedictine Order, in the Archabbey of St. Ottilien. The parish priest of Wermerichshausen wrote in Konrad Roth’s character reference of 31 August 1909: “The student Konrad Roth, the legitimate son of the still living farmer Isidor Roth and the predeceased Katharina Reiher of Weichtungen, has behaved in an exemplary manner during all the holidays that he spent at home. I know of no impediment that would hinder or make it impossible for him to enter the monastery.” Konrad Roth received the religious name of Lucius, made his profession of vows on 16 October 1910 and studied philosophy and theology at the Benedictine house of studies, Sant’ Anselmo, in Rome. There he earned a doctorate in theology in 1914. on 5 July 1914 Cardinal Basilius Pompilj ordained him in Sant Apollinare in Rome. Father Lucius celebrated his first Mass in Weichtungen on 12 July 1914. His first Mass motto was, “Praise the Lord, all you peoples!”
Secretary with Eugenio Paccelli
“During the First World War or soon after that it happened that Eugenio Paccelli (who later became Pope Pius XII), the nuncio in Munich, asked Archabbot Norbert for two priests as secretaries. Archabbot Norbert put Father Lucius Rother and Father Athanasius from St. Ottilien at his disposal. Father Lucius was recommended for this service in a special way as he had studied at Sant’ Anselm in Rome and had a worthy command of the language. He won the mutual trust of the nuncio,” writes Father Frumentius Renner in his remembrances of Father Lucius Roth.
Father Lucius’ service as superior of Los Cabos in Spain in 1923 was short. The monastic foundation there had to be given up after a short time. A year later finds Father Lucius in a completely different country where he worked for over twenty years and was finally killed, namely Korea. On 7 October 1924, the feast of the Holy Rosary, he was sent to this Asian country.
Good Spirit in the Abbey
Father Lucius served as the parish priest in Wonsan and in August 1930 became the prior and vicar general in Tokwon Abbey. The Japanese occupied the country at that time. There were no adverse conditions for the missionary work of the Benedictines. The mission stations flourished in the 1930s. Fr. Lucius taught in the gymnasium, lectured in theology in the seminary, introduced the newly arrived European missionaries to the Korean language and translated liturgical texts into the language of the country. The impressive literary activity of Fr. Lucius consisted of Mass books, Office and meditation books translated into Korean. In addition, he published a guide for the church and monastery of Tokwon in Korean and even a Korean grammar. The chronicler of Tokwon Abbey writes about this book, “On 7 December 1936 Father Prior Lucius published an almost six hundred page long book. This made his confreres especially glad.”
There is a description in the German Martyrology of the period in which Father Lucius was the prior in Tokwon: “There must have been a very good spirit in the community of Tokwon. The seminary, too, enjoyed a high reputation throughout the country and trained priests for the whole country. Father Lucius was one of the leading monks and exerted all his energy in his responsible positions.”
The Fateful Day
Then came the Second World War which decisively changed the map of Korea. Russian troops invaded in August 1945. Eight months later they had to withdraw again and the Korean communists took their place. The thirty-eighth parallel formed the future boundary between North and South Korea. Tokwon Abbey lay north of the 38th parallel and thus it was in the communist section of the country. Any kind of missionary work was brutally suppressed. The reforms of the communists hit the abbey. In 1946 there was the land reform. The monastery lost the greatest part of its property. The pressure on the missionaries grew. In March 1949 the printing press of the mission center at Tokwon had to close of which Fr. Lucius was the director. Then came the fateful day for Tokwon Abbey: During the night of 9–10 May 1949 an attack unit of the communist secret police entered the monastery. Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer was taken away, the monastery was forcibly seized. In the days that followed the Benedictines were expelled or taken prisoner, the abbey was closed. Father Lucius was imprisoned together with his confreres and Abbot-Bishop Boniface in Pyongyang under inhuman conditions. “The cell for eighteen men was only eight meters square,” its says in the book Schicksal in Korea–Deutsche Missionare berichten. It continues, “Father Prior Lucius complained during one nocturnal interrogation that we are not treated like human beings but penned in like pigs and he offers that they can shoot him as the man responsible for the entire mission and let the innocent go free.” The stay in prison becomes torture. Abbot-Bishop Boniface dies on 7 February 1950 completely debilitated. At the beginning of October 1950 when the North Korean troops had to retreat during the war, the Benedictines remaining in the prison were shot by the communists. Father Lucius was brutally executed on 3 October 1950 apparently after prior proceedings. “The execution would have been connected with severe tortures. Only after a few years news leaked out in whispers that it may have been that after the execution of the ‘criminals’ what was left of them was cleaned away from the place of execution with a shovel,” is how it is stated in the German Martyrologium. “Asian cruelty” is the keyword.
Last Letter Home
Father Lucius’ last letter to his relatives in Weichtungen dated 9 April 1949, written one month before the destruction of Tokwon Abbey, is still full of hope: “So far things here ares till quiet, thanks be to God. In more than one respect it could be better, but one must be satisfied with what God sends. We are short of many things; but it is still enough to live on. We can still maintain our seminary.” In view of fate, he enclosed the following thoughts to one of his relatives which would have strengthened Father Lucius himself in the upcoming weeks and months of imprisonment: “Yet that is a cross that God enjoins on us. And we must come to terms with his holy will. Naturally you could say that people are to blame. But then you have to think of the suffering of Christ. Next week is Holy Week. With Christ you can also say that human beings were the cause of his suffering and death and that he accepted everything from the hand of his heavenly Father. So must we…”
FATHER GREGOR (KARL) STEGER
(3 December 1900 – 3 October 1910)
Karl Steger saw the light of this world on 30 December 1900 in the small village of Tröbes not far from Regensburg He grew up in a Catholic family as the son of a teacher. After his gymnasium studies at Schweiklberg and Passau, he entered the monastery of Schweiklberg and professed his simple vows on 11 July 1922. His solemn profession followed on 12 July 1925, also in Schweiklberg. On 11 July 1926 he was ordained a priest by Bishop Sigismund Felix Von Ow-Felldorf (1855–1936) of Passau in the abbey church of Schweiklberg and then taught in the monastery school.
On 21 April 1930 he received the mission cross for Tokwon and was sent to Korea from St. Ottilien. After a year studying the language at the abbey, he became the assistant in Yongheung (Ryondchong) where Fr Callistus Hiemer introduced him to pastoral work in the missions. Later, Father Gregor himself would become the superior and parish priest of Yongheung. Thanks to his zeal a flourishing Christian community grew up there. He knew how to captivate the young and old in the catechetical instructions that he held following the method of the Munich Catechetical School and published them in Korean. In April 1949 the Korean Communists arrested him on this mission station because in his preaching and catechesis he had professed his opposition to the Communist worldview. He was brought to the prison in Wonsan and from there to Pyongyang. He had to suffer great deprivations, was tortured and killed. Two other German missionary priests were killed on the same day in the same prison. They died as enemies of communism, as witnesses to the faith. Fr. Gregor was initially sentenced to seven years in prison.
Father Gregor Steger OSB
Office for Beatification and Canonization, Diocese of Regensburg
Father Gregor Steger was born on 30 December 1900 in the small village of Tröbes, in the parish of Moosbach, Upper Palatinate, Diocese of Regensburg as the son of the school teachers Johann and Anna Steger. His devout parents gave him the name Karl at his baptism. He spent his childhood and youth in Tröbes until in 1913, due to the transfer of his father, they relocated their residence to Altenstadt. He began his gymnasium studies in 1912 in Regensburg, continued them in Schweiklberg and completed them in Passau. Afterwards Karl entered Schweiklberg Abbey and there received the religious name Gregor. On 111 July 1922 he took his simple vows and on 12 July 1925 made his solemn profession. The bishop of Passau, Sigismund Felix von Ow (1855–1936) conferred the priesthood on him in the abbey church of Schweiklberg on 11 July 1926, the Solemnity of St. Benedict. With many people in attendance, he celebrated his first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the parish church of Vohenstrauss on 25 July 1926.
As a young priest Gregor Steger first taught in the monastery school of Schweiklberg until on 21 April 1930 he received the mission cross for Tokwon, Korea by the superior in St. Ottilien. After a yearlong study of the language and preparation for pastoral work in the mission, Fr. Gregor received his first assignment as an assistant in Yonghung (Eiko). Later he became the parish priest and superior of Yonghung and saw a flourish Christian community develop thanks to his zeal. He understood how to attract and inspire for Christ the souls entrusted to him, children as well as adults, by his excellent catechetical instruction. The notes and methods of his instruction Fr. Gregor published as a catechism in Korean.
In April 1949 a life of suffering began for the zealous missionary. Father Gregor Steger was arrested together with his confreres on the mission station after he had become known, through his preaching as well as his catechesis, as a resolute opponent of the communist worldview. He was brought to the prison in Wonsan and from there taken to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang where he had to suffer great deprivations (he was nothing but skin and bones) and tortured and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. On 9 May 1949 the North Korean communist government seized Tokwon Abbey and destroyed it. During the night of 3–4 October 1950 Fr. Gregor Steger was killed for his faith in Christ. He was shot in the neck as a fearless preacher of Christian doctrine.
Despite frequent inquiries he with his confreres was presumed as missing since the fall of 1949. Later it was learned from the Allied American troops the prisoners interned in Pyongyang were transported to Yongsang after the Korean War broke out in October 1950 and the allies had almost reached the northern border. There in a mass grave were found the mortal remains of Fr. Gregor besides many others who had been executed.
The life and death of Fr. Gregor Steger can serve as a model for us, to inspire people for Christ and to stand up fearlessly for the truth of Jesus and the rights of the Church under difficult circumstances. From his example we can find strength, facing an environment foreign to the faith, either apathetic or outright hostile, to proclaim the beauty of the Catholic teaching, to profess it forthrightly and to spread it zealously.
The example of Fr. Gregor as an untiring catechist and zealous pastor, but especially his death as a witness of Christ encourages us to call on him confidently in our concerns as an intercessor with God. As a missionary who gave his life for Christ, he remains close to us and will carry our prayers and petitions before God.
you gave Father Gregor Steger to your Church
as a missionary who worked tirelessly for the spread of the gospel in Korea.
He gave his life in service to the Good News.
We ask you never to let the fervor of missionary zeal in your Church slacken.
Help the people in Korea and in all East Asia to discover the truth of Christ.
Give us the courage to counter systems of unbelief and hostility to the Church
with the message of the Gospel.
Open your ear to all who seek you, especially the children and youth,
so that they may accept with ready hearts the beauty of the faith
brought to them by catechesis and instruction
and with the power of the Holy Spirit it may be effective in their lives.
Bless the lives of all missionaries
so that the Kingdom of Christ may spread even further on earth.
Trusting in your power, gracious God,
grant us, through the intercession of Father Gregor Steger
the grace……which we ask of you with heartfelt devotion.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sayings of Father Gregor Steger OSB:
“There is a fire in me before which every faintheartedness fades away.”
“The promise to the Lord God: I will work for him even if my feet become thick like the horses that have to pull logs year in and year out.”
FATHER DAGOBERT (OTTO FRIEDRICH) ENK
(15 September 1907 – 3 October 1950)
Otto Friedrich Enk was born on 15 September 1907 in St. Margaret’s Parish, Munich. His parents were Eduard Enk and his wife Anna, née Aichbicher. The father was a merchant. Otto spent a few years in Ismaning then in 1914 he went to his grandfather in Freiburg in Breisgau where he attended school. In 1917 he entered the Berthold Gymnasium in Freiburg. When his aunt Josephine moved to Munich in 1923, he continued his gymnasium studies at the Wittelsbach Gymnasium with class seven until he did his final exams in March 1926.
Afterwards at the wish of his family, he went to the farm of his uncle, the regional agricultural councilor August Wittmann, in Oberhaunstadt near Ingolstadt; there he was a trainee. From a report that was written about him on 1 April 1947, the following is noteworthy: “In all the work assigned him Mr. Enk applied him self to it on the day with much diligence and meticulous conscientiousness and proved himself very reliable and shrewd especially in the book-keeping work.”
To the more important areas that related to his interior life his religion teacher from the Wittelsbach Gymnasium gave voice: “He came from the Freiburg student congregation and in Munich participated in the religious and other exercises of New Germany. Fairly gifted, he added to what he had through hard work and diligence. Coming from a religious family, he showed great interest and practical zeal for all things religious. For years he has been speaking of a priestly vocation and of the monastery and the missions. With his mind, his exemplary behavior, his sense of obedience and…his modesty and kindness toward others, his selfless, ideal concept of a vocation and his tenacious perseverance I consider him suitable for the vocation of a religious and missionary priest, provided he is generally healthy.”
This descriptiont of the religion teacher proved to be true when Otto entered the monastery of St. Ottilien. His confreres knew this of him from the first day on. When he was admitted into the novitiate in mid-May 1927, he received the name Dagobert. He took his first vows in 14 May 1928. Final profession followed on 17 May 1951. On 26 March 1933 he was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Kumpfmüller of Augsburg in St. Ottilien.
On 20 August 1934 he was sent to Tokwon. Thanks to his practical skills in administration and bookkeeping and also his personal kindness, he was entrusted with the office of cellarer and procurator of the monastery and to look after the needs of the various mission stations belonging to the monastery. He settled in comparatively quickly to the new world with it mysterious symbols and into contacts with the Japanese and Korean business people and employees. He was anxious to perform his service well and to care for every necessity. Looking out for a stranger in need was second nature to him and if he could not offer a material gift, he always had a kind word ready. As the administrator of the monastery, Father Dagobert was controlled very strictly. In December 1948 he was already in detention in Wonsan, without a trial or a sentence. In April 1949 he was brought to Pyongyang. He served the community faithfully to the bitter end and then through his suffering and his death on 3 October 1950. His death came after being tortured with Asian cruelty.
BROTHER GREGOR GIEGERICH
(29 April 1913 – 4 October 1950)
Ludwig Giegerich came from a simple farming family in Grosswallstadt in Lower Franconia, where he saw the light of this world on 29 April 1913. On the feast of St. Mark 1928 he bid farewell to his parents, Alois Giegerich and his wife Berta, and nine brothers and sisters and became a student for the brotherhood at Münsterschwarzach. From 1928 to 1932 he trained as an electrician and on 20 October 1932 professed his holy vows in Münsterschwarzach; his perpetual profession was on 19 January 1936. On the feast of the Epiphany 1939, he was sent to Tokwon and soon took over the entire electrical operation and later even the monastery mill. Because, as the monastery driver, he was not always in favor with the Communist authorities and left their undue wishes unrealized, he also was sentenced to a long time in prison. Brother Gregor was the nurse for Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer in the last months of his stay in the Pyongyang prison. He was killed on 4 October in the Pyongyang prison.
BROTHER JOSEPH GRAHAMER
(1 June 1888 – 4 October 1950)
Benno Grahamer was born on 1 June 1888 in Eisenhofen near Dachau. His parents were Simon Grahamer and Kreszenz, née Bonn; the father was a small landowner, who in 1901 is already record as having died. His mother, a widow with many children, had to cope alone with the burden of raising and earning a livelihood for the family. That she raised her children in a religious manner emerges from the fact that her son Johann Baptist, born in 1883, entered St. Ottilien and was ordained a priest in 1909 as Fr. Petrus Claver (†1940). His younger brother would also find his way to the monastery.
In primary school Benno received excellent reports. The means for further studies were lacking. So he was entrusted to a master tailor as an apprentice and worked temporarily as a journeyman with other masters. However, he wrote in a letter to St. Ottilien on 31 October 1906: “Since I have clearly resolved now to enter the monastery of St. Ottilien, I most humbly ask you Very Reverend Father for acceptance. For a long time I have been felling within me a drive to dedicate myself completely to the Heart of Jesus and to the missions, but I could not fulfill my wish since I am still too young and also because I was sick recently. Now I am better again and I believe that God was only testing me. Since my decision remains firm and I feel even more drawn to the monastery, I believe it is God’s will that I can be happy only in the monastery.”
Benno was accepted and became a brother candidate at St. Ottilien. When he was received into the novitiate he received St. Joseph as his future patron. On 16 January 1910 he made his profession. In January 1911 he was sent to Seoul. Thus Br. Joseph belonged to the founding members of this first Benedictine monastery on Korean soil.
Brother Joseph mainly served his community in Seoul and then in Tokwon in his trade as a tailor. He supplied his confreres with suitable clothing and looked after the liturgical vestments and altar linens. However, quite soon he was praised as a good nurse and medical practitioner. The people in the area turned to him. A house doctor made it possible for him to watch and take part in operations in the government and university hospital of Seoul. Brother Joseph showed so much skill in this that in 1928 he received a Japanese imperial diploma that authorized him to exercise a medical practice. At Tokwon Abbey he directed a small hospital, had consultation hours and selflessly assisted many sick and infirm people who sought his help from near and far. There were often more than one hundred sick people a day, seldom were there less than fifty. Up to 18,000 people suffering from illnesses annually visited the widely known medical brother. He opened heaven’s door to countless people through emergency baptism. But the new brutal Communist system would show no understanding even to the hero of Christian charity. His good work and service were misinterpreted and he was sentences to prison. After almost five months in prison he was killed for his faith on 4 October 1950.
FATHER BENEDICT (AUGUSTINE) KIM
(31 March 1914 – 5 October 1950)
Our first Korean priest was born on 31 March 1914 in Galgok-ri in the Apostolic Vicariate of Seoul. At the age of twelve he came to the abbey in Seoul to train as a shoemaker. In Tokwon this budding young man was permitted to participate in the preparatory course for the seminary. In 1929 he began secondary school with its five-year lower classes and two-year upper classes.
Augustine Kim was very gifted all around. He showed a special talent for music (violin, piano and organ). After his philosophy studies, he asked to be accepted into the monastic family. As the first Korean choir novice, he received the name of our Holy Father Benedict. On Easter Monday, 10 April 1939, he professed his holy vows and then began his study of theology at the abbey. On 1 May 1942 he was ordained by his Most Reverend Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer and then became and assistant priest in the Tokwon parish. He was a good preacher and took care of the youth with enthusiasm. In the course of the years Father Benedict had gained great proficiency in German and so could be helpful to the young German priests in working out and translating sermons in Korean. In May 1945 Tokwon parish was handed over to him. But an earlier pulmonary ailment that never completely healed prevented him from exercising this office. In spite of his illness, he was also arrested on 11 May 1949 and brought to the prison in Pyongyang where he, the first priest of our Order in Korea, may soon have succumbed to his illness.
“Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” –Psalm 126:5
FATHER BERNARD KIM
(12 February 1918 – 5 October 1950)
Father Bernard Kim was born in Samwonpong, one of the oldest stations of the Diocese of Yenki, on 12 February 1918. He lost his parents at a very early age; so he came to Hoeryong and in the spring of 1935 he entered the minor seminary at Tokwon. After he completed secondary school, he was received in the monastery and on the feast of the Nativity of Mary 1943, professed his vows. On 8 April 1948, the feast of Our Holy Father Benedict, he was ordained to the priesthood. On White Sunday he celebrated his first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the abbey church; but none of his relatives could be present because they were all living in the occupied territory of Manchuria. Father Bernard was given the task of second cellarer. He, too, was arrested on 11 May 1949 and, according to the information supplied by Father Lucius, was put into the cell of a notorious felon.
“Like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.”
FATHER MARTIN (HIERONYMO) KIM
(20 July 1920 – 5 October 1950)
He was born on 20 July 1920 in Yangyang in the Apostolic Prefecture of Chuncheon that was under the Columban Missionaries. He attended the upper level courses in Tokwon in 1938 as a seminarian for Seoul and also did philosophy there. At the beginning of March 1944 he was received into the novitiate with Fraters Augustine and Beda and on 19 March 1945 professed his holy vows. After his ordination on St. Stephan’s Day in 1948 he became the assistant priest in the Tokwon parish. Father Martin had a liking for manual labor and was an excellent hiker and mountain climber. Thus he could easily visit all the outposts of the abbey in the mountain valleys. He, too, had to share in the hard lot of imprisonment with the German confreres in Pyongyang.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.” –Luke 6:22–23
FATHER LAURENTIUS RI
(8 March 1915 – 5 October 1950)
He was born on 8 March 1915 in Sinam-ri in the Apostolic Vicariate of Seoul and was ordained a priest in Seoul on 24 June 1939. Two years later, with the permission of his bishop, he asked to be admitted to Tokwon Abbey and professed his vows there on 26 July 1942. Father Laurentius took the monastic exercises and the striving for perfection very seriously. So the superiors entrusted to him the spiritual direction of a Korean congregation of sisters that the first Korean bishop of Pyongyang, Bishop Franciscus Hong, had founded. There he was put in prison and also died, willingly professing his faith for Christ.
“For if before men they endured torments,
it was still God who was putting them to the test.”
–Wisdom 3:4a, 5a
FATHER MAURUS KIM
(24 August 1913 – 8 October 1950)
Father Maurus was born on 24 August 1913 in Noro-pat-tung in the Diocese of Yenki. He attended the minor seminary run by the Benedictines of Tokwon. After completing his philosophical studies, he received the monk’s habit at Yenki Abbey and professed his holy vows on 26 March 1939. For the study of theology he again traveled southward to the seminary at Tokwon and then at Easter 1942 was ordained a priest at Yenki by Abbot-Bishop Theodor Breher. He began his missionary work on the mission stations of Badaugou and Hunchun. After the Russians invaded Manchuria and the arrest of the Yenki missionaries, the pastorally zealous Father Maurus placed himself at the disposal of Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer of Tokwon. His field of work was the port city of Wonsan. When the German Korean missionaries were interned in May 1949 and the Catholic communities were robbed of their shepherds, Father Maurus untiringly went throughout the North Korean territory as a wandering missionary and looked after the orphaned herd. According to one report, he was killed in Wonsan by the withdrawing Communists on 8 October 1950 and buried by the Christians in the Catholic cemetery.
SR. LUCIA PARK (NÉE: ANGELA)
Date of Birth: October 14, 1919
Birth Place: Sunan, South Pyongan Province, North Korea
Date of First Profession: June 22, 1943 in Wonsan, North Korea
Date of Death: October 11, 1950 in Sunan, South Pyongan Province, North Korea
Sr. Lucia Park was Sr. Columba Park’s niece. Sr. Columba Park had been appointed as the subprioress to be in charge of all the Korean Sisters after the disbandment and separation from the German superiors.
Sr. Lucia was born in 1919 as the first child of three children in SoonAhn, South Pyongan Province, North Korea. She and her family lived a comparatively well-to-do life. Her father died before she entered convent. She had an upright and positive self-image. She was forthright and spoke out what she thought right. She was a well-formed beauty and her character was refreshing like a crisp morning. Everyone loved her. She had a deep Catholic faith, learned from her family tradition. She loved to help the poor and the needy. She had good sense and correct judgments.
At the age of 19, she came to the Clothing ceremony of her aunt, Sr. Colomba Park and on the spot she entered the convent in Wonsan. With her lively and intelligent character she endured well all the hardships of the convent. She passed a qualifying examination for the music teachers as a postulant.
When her first profession was delayed and she became despondent, her aunt, Sr. Colomba advised her saying, “Who obtains the biggest crown of martyrdom is more important than Who makes profession faster than the others.”
Thus, Sr. Lucia wanted to obtain the crown of martyrdom even before her first profession. So, she obtained what she desired, the crown of martyrdom for Christ on October 11, 1950, seven years after her first profession, at the age of 31, by the local communists of her town.
SR. LUCIA PAK, OSB
Wonsan - North Korea
Sr. Matilda Handl, OSB
Angela Pak was the oldest of three children. She was born to a happy and prosperous Catholic family in the village of Sunan in North Korea on October 14, 1919. Her father died while Angela was still small.
From early childhood, Angela developed a strong, active faith. She learned to help the poor and suffering with deep compassion. She grew up as a strong personality with clear convictions. Taller than average in stature, she impressed people at first sight by her fine appearance. The villagers of Sunan knew her as one who always spoke the truth. They admired her beauty, wisdom and sound judgment.
When her aunt, our Sister Columba Park, received the monastic habit at Wonsan, Angela attended the ceremony and was deeply impressed. She felt inspired to enter the convent at once.
While she was a candidate, Angela passed a test to become a music teacher. She was a smart and very active young woman, strong in enduring difficulties. As a novice, Sister Lucia had to wait longer before being admitted to profession. She was sad at first. Then Sister Columba told her, "It does not matter who makes profession sooner, but who gets to wear the greater crown of martyrdom. You must endure and wait with patience." Sister Lucia made her monastic profession on June 22, 1943. Just seven years later, she did receive the crown of martyrdom.
All during World War II, from 1939 to 1945, the sisters of Wonsan Priory were virtually isolated from the rest of the congregation of Missionary Benedictine Sisters. In 1945 the Russians entered North Korea. They limited the freedom of the missionaries but did not mistreat them. However, in secret the Russians prepared the way for the Korean Communists to take power at New Years 1949. Then the persecution began.
On the night of May 10, 1949, Communist officials appeared at the priory house in Wonsan and confiscated it. The European sisters were imprisoned for several months at Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea. Then they were taken to the mountains in the north. At the labor camp of Oksadok, they suffered until their release in 1954.
The nineteen Korean sisters were imprisoned at a "rehabilitation center" in Wonsan. They were denounced as lazy, useless citizens and were pressured to get married. A week later they were taken back to the convent to put on lay clothing and had to return to their families. The sisters said to themselves, "It is neither the convent building nor the habit that make the religious, but the heart and the spirit." All had resolved to remain faithful and to live their vocation as Missionary Benedictines whole-heartedly.
Sister Lucia and Sister Oliva, also a relative of Sister Columba Park, moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, then to their home village of Sunan. Sister Lucia taught the children catechism three times a week, fearlessly gathering them in the very meeting hall of the Communists. The children also learned to sing the church songs.
Some of Sister Lucia's relatives were Communists. Naturally, they weren't very happy with her activities. Yet until the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, Sister Lucia had no difficulty in living up to her Missionary Benedictine vocation.
Sister Columba Park had been chosen as subprioress of Wonsan by Mother Prioress Gertrud Link in 1948. When all the sisters were imprisoned in 1949, Sister Columba was put in charge of the Korean sisters. This was a heavy responsibility for her. In February 1950, she took a chance and fled to South Korea. She asked Sisters Lucia and Oliva to follow her at the next opportunity, fearing that once her escape became known, the two other sisters would have problems.
Sister Oliva was hard of hearing. Sister Lucia thought there would be great danger if during an attempted flight they were arrested and separated. If interrogated, Sister Oliva might give answers that would ruin the chances for the other sisters to escape to the south. So the two sisters stayed in North Korea while most of the other Korean sisters succeeded in fleeing south.
The village of Sunan had been peaceful. One of Sister Lucia's third cousins, once a hired man of her family, had become a high-ranking Communist official. He reported Sister Lucia to the authorities. On September 24, 1950, she was arrested.
It is not certain why only Sister Lucia was imprisoned and not Sister Oliva. Perhaps Sister Lucia's exceptional beauty had attracted notice. Also her strong sense of justice had made her aware of injustices of the government against the people, and she told her Communist relatives that they needed to convert and repent. She had continued teaching religion and singing. Witnesses agree that all these factors contributed to her arrest.
In the fall of 1950 the South Korean army pushed north. As it came near Sunan, the Communist army marched all its prisoners to a mountain. There they shot them. Various dates have been given, October 5, 11, or 12. Sister Lucia Pak was among the prisoners who were executed by the Communists at that time.
Sister Lucia remained loyal to our Lord Jesus Christ and kept her lofty religious spirit. She fulfilled the will of God, faithful to the point of giving her very life at the age of 31 years.
BROTHER LUDWIG (KARL) FISCHER
(23 October 1902 – 11 October 1950)
Karl Fscher was born on 23 October 1902 in Unterstelzhausen near Crailsheim, Württemberg that belonged to the parish of Marktlustenau in the diocese of Rottenburg [-Stuttgart]. His parents were Wendelin Fischer and his beloved wife Helene, née Hörner. He grew up in a Christian family together with six brothers and sisters, three of whom died as small children. An older brother entered the Franciscan Brothers in Waldbreitbach, Rhineland. His father was a shoemaker and he apprenticed at home with his father. Before he entered the monastery, he worked as a journeyman shoemaker with his brother Wendelin.
At the beginning of 1923, at the age of twenty, he entered our monastery and became a brother candidate. Upon his admittance to the novitiate he received the name Brother Ludwig. On 15 October 1924 professed his temporary vows. On 27 September 1925 he received the mission cross for the abbey in Seoul and declared himself ready to die for the Catholic faith. At Tokwon in 1928 he became the prefect of the students studying to be brothers and the chauffer for the bishop. With his open outlook and his quick grasp of things, he found the time and skill to learn bookbinding. It was not long before he became director of the monastery’s typesetting and printing house. With a few helpers he managed to publish some twenty works including the Korean New Testament, a Korean Schott Missal, hymnbook and Brothers Office. Because of alleged dissemination of publications dangerous to the state, he was arrested on 28 April 1949 and brought to the prison in Pyongyang. He was held in solitary confinement and so had to endure all the frightful harshness of East Asian imprisonment. He was killed for the faith on 11 October 1950.
OBLATE AGNETA CHANG, OSB (1910-1950)
Priory of Wonsan, North Korea
Sister Mary John Mazanan, OSB
Who is this Oblate Agneta, for whom martyrdom was reserved? One of the 10,000 Koreans who, during the 200 years of Christianity in Korea, gave their lives for the faith. She was murdered brutally on the 14th of October 1950, in the prison of Hamheung, while other sisters survived 4½ years of forced labor in the concentration camp at Oksadok.
It was during the night of May 10th to 11th, 1949, when the sisters were rudely awakened and arrested by the Communist Secret Police; they were taken from the Priory House at Wonsan and brought by truck and animal car to the distant town of Pyongyang. Hurriedly dressed and with only the Holy Eucharist, which they managed to consume secretly, they had to leave their convent. That was the prelude to a long time of suffering.
Sr. Agneta actually belonged to the community at Hamheung. But during the raid of May 10th to 11th, 1949, she had been at Wonsan for retreat, and therefore, arrested with the sisters there.
Several reports tell about the life of our Oblate Agneta Chang. From Sr. Chrysostoma Schmid, the chronicler, who had also been one of the four foundresses of the Immaculata Priory at Wonsan, North Korea, we have the following information:
”After our arrival on the 18th of November 1925 in Seoul, Mother Mathilide Hirsch and her three companions were soon visited by some young girls who wanted to become sisters. With them was Jacobo Chang, cathechist and parish-elder, who was highly esteemed by all the Christians. Both he and his daughter Agatha (later Oblate Agneta) were well known by the German Benedictines of Seoul. Agatha would have liked to follow us at once to Wonsan, We were hardly established there, when Mr. Chang with wife and daughter Agatha moved to Wonsan, close to our convent.
“Agatha took care of her very sick mother. But during the day, she often came over to us and helped with baking hosts, in the sacristy, or wherever she could be of service. Soon afterwards her mother died.” So far the account from Sr. Chrysostoma.
Agatha was fourth among the candidates who entered on the 1st of April 1927 in Wonsan. A year later, on the 1st of May 1928, the first group of postulants received the black veil. To her great disappointment, Agatha was not among them. Mother Prioress Mathilde had come to know only then, that 18-year old Candidate Agatha had been married and was already widowed. (She was born in 1910 in Hwang Hae-Do, North Korea). According to the general thought of the time, it was impossible for a young woman who had been married, to become a professed religious. Agatha had often assured her fellow-sisters that she had never lived with the man to whom she had been given in marriage. With tears she claimed to be a virgin. Yet, she had legally been married. In those days it was the custom that parents would promise their children already at a very early age in marriage. The children did not know their partner, and saw him for the first time only on their wedding day.
In the same way, Agatha had been betrothed as a child. When old enough, she and her fiancé received the Sacrament of Matrimony. The wedding banquet was duly held, to seal the marriage according to Korean custom. The bridegroom—then already suffering from severe tuberculosis—died shortly after the wedding. Also, this young man had been a brother to our Sister Benedicta Paek.
For Agatha, it was a great disappointment not to become a full member of the religious community which she loved so much. It was a sorrow she felt throughout her life. Upon Mother Prioress’ advice, she decided to remain as an oblate. But, every feastday, every new reception into the novitiate, as well as celebrations on the occasion of religious profession were painful for Sr. Agneta, as she was now called as an Oblate. It also meant to be excluded from attending Chapter, for the rest of her life. But Sr. Agneta said “yes” to all these deprivations and submitted to them.
Her longest employment was at the parlor in the priory house at Wonsan. She also did missionary work in the parish of Christ the King, in Wonsan. Whatever task had been entrusted to her, she carried it out faithfully and with dedication. Well-loved by the people of the town, she was approached for advice and help. She prepared catechumens for baptism and visited people in their homes. Her special charism was to teach men, trying to get the catechism and the most necessary prayers across to the old grandpas.
When one of the sisters became sick and in need of a night nurse, Sr. Agneta would offer her assistance. Whenever there were occasions that drew many visitors to the convent, e.g., at the death of a sister when, according to Korean tradition, relatives and friends would come at any time during the day and night to pray the Yondo for the
deceased, she had a kind word and consoling smile.
Mrs. Christina Yu, catechist in Seoul, recalls this about Sr. Agneta:
I lived in Wonsan. As a Protestant student I attended the religious instructions of Sr. Agneta several times with a friend; but then I stayed away. One day, during the noon hour, I felt very strongly that I should become a Catholic. I should return to Sr. Agneta for further instructions. Why? No one had even mentioned the subject, but I felt a movement within me, as though God had given me a command. I just knew, I had to do it. When I rejoined the class some days later, Sr. Agneta said to me, ‘You have come back, because we prayed for you. God has heard us.’ Later, she admitted that she had asked all 14 sisters to give up their noon rest in order to pray for a particular student. Then she invited me to come to Holy Mass the next Sunday.
Sr. Agneta’s heart always went out to poor people. She kept Mother Prioress Ambrosia informed about their needs and would be anxious to procure articles of food for them. However, she could be serious towards loafers and did not mince words. She also reminded them of their responsibility towards God
But, as to her own needs, she was thrifty, almost too thrifty. She darned and mended her clothing so much, that at times the original material could hardly be seen. Even though her sisters teased her about it during recreation, she took it good-naturedly and laughed along when she was made the object of funny scenes.
Sr. Agneta was diligent at prayer. She loved the Common Office and tried also to learn praying and singing the Latin well. Often she prayed the rosary. During Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on First Fridays, she used every spare minute for adoration, even though this meant running up and down the stairs repeatedly, to answer the doorbell.
When Sr. Agneta was arrested, together with the other sisters of the Wonsan community in 1949, the Korean sisters were separated from the Europeans before they were brought to different prisons at Kam-yang. The booklet Schicksal in Korea describes somewhat the conditions in the prison cells there:
The sisters were deprived of their veils, but they refused to take off the habit. Always five of them were stuck into one room. On the floor, glossy with filth, were pieces of what at some time had been straw mattresses. The bucket in the corner emitted an unmistakable stench. That was all the furnishings.
Sister Agneta and the other Korean sisters were released after one week. Since there were no relatives with whom she could have stayed, Sr. Agneta was put up by Anselmo Yu, a Christian in Hamheung. There, she had a small room and worked in a brickyard, earning her livelihood. She cooked and took care of herself. Day after day she had to mend the gloves which were torn from the heavy work.
Constantly watched by the secret police, she could make no unnoticed move. Despite this fact, in summer 1950, she undertook to visit some Korean sisters who were living with relatives in Pyongyang, after their release from prison. She also hoped to find a priest there, for she wanted to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. She succeeded in meeting an Anglican priest to whom she went to confession and received Communion.
Had she been watched? After her return to Hamheung, Sr. Agneta was arrested on the 25th of June in the house of Anselmo Yu. It was the day when the Korean War began. Besides Sr. Agneta, many other people in town were taken to jail on suspicion of being subversive against the Red Regime.
Since that day, Sr. Agneta’s whereabouts could no longer be followed. It seems, everyone in town was preoccupied with his own affairs, so much so, that none of the Christians visited Sr. Agneta in prison. One can only surmise what she suffered there.
On the 7th of October 1950, South Korean soldiers, together with the US Army, occupied Hamheung. Some days previously, the Red Army had fled the city; and when the South Korean soldiers took over the prison, they found many bodies which the Communists had tried to hide. Even the well was filled with corpses.
The town people were alerted to come to the prison to search for missing relatives and to help identify the dead. Some who returned from there informed Mrs. Pia Choo, a Christian, that they had found a woman who resembled Sr. Agneta. Together with the catechist, Mrs. Christina Yu, they went to find out. This catechist reports:
On reaching the prison gate we saw many South Korean and American soldiers. The Koreans told us, ‘Don’t cry; behave in a quiet way, because of the Americans. Move on quickly, as there are many in search of their relatives.’ The women’s bodies were on one side, those of the men on the other. Identification was difficult. Therefore, we waited until most people had gone. Then we searched again and found the Sister, wearing prison number 4 on her chest. It was now 6 p.m. and we had to leave the jail in order to be off the streets before the curfew. But, we reported that the dead woman with the number 4 belonged to us and that we would return the following day.
Next day, we came back with some men and also the mother of Anselmo Yu, at whose house Sr. Agneta had been living. When she saw Sr. Agneta, she cried out, “Oh, this is our Mother Agneta!’ and broke into loud weeping. Just at that moment, bright, fresh blood exuded from Sr. Agneta’s mouth without anyone having touched the body. On her forehead there was a wound; likewise at the chin. And at the back of her head was a gash like from an axe.
We placed Sr. Agneta on a stretcher and took her to the convent. Although the parish house and the living quarters of the sisters had been burned down, there remained a room in the former clinic which, for some time, had been used as an office by the police. There, we brought the dead Sister. When the Christians saw Sr. Agneta they exclaimed. ‘Sister Agneta, now you are again in the convent!” At that moment, a discharge of fresh blood again oozed from her mouth, as though she wanted to give us confirmation. Then we dressed her in a shroud of poor material, since hardly anything could be bought in those times. When changing her clothes we noticed that the body must have been lying in water for some days, as it was bloated. We marveled all the more at the fact that fresh blood had come from her mouth.
Then we buried Sr. Agneta about 200 m behind the church, upon a hill. Next to her, we stuck a bottle upside-down into the ground. It contained a piece of paper with the name AGNETA CHANG. Some Christians showed her their final respects by praying the prayers for the dead there.
Oblate Sr. Agneta is resting now in North Korea, waiting for the resurrection. It is with pride that she can be numbered among the sisters.
OBLATE CHANG (NÉE: AGATHA)
Date of Birth: 1910 (month and day are not known)
Birth Place: Born in HwangHaeDo, North Korea; Grew up HeHwaDong, Seoul
Date of Oblate Profession: February 26, 1927
Date of Death: October 14, 1950 at Hamheung Prison, North Korea
As a resident oblate, Agnetta lived a life of sacrifice in the spirit of martyrs. In death, she was killed or martyred by the communist prison camp guards.
While living as an oblate for 23 years, she taught and baptized many people. She willingly fulfilled the lowly jobs of the convent. She could not wear the monastic habit which she longed to wear.
She was murdered by the communists at the age of 40.
Her tomb site is at the Catholic cemetery in Hamheung, North Korea.