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Church-run café offers refuge from the cold

Korean café serves as hub of faith and community

Patrons get warm in Jeonju diocese's Santiago café Patrons get warm in Jeonju diocese's Santiago café
  • Francesca Shin, Gunsan
  • Korea
  • February 20, 2012
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This winter has been one of the coldest since records began in Korea; the sort of weather that makes people long for a warm place to sit and relax with a cup of hot coffee. And they can do precisely that at the new Santiago café, opened by Naun-dong Church in Jeonju diocese.

Launched in early February, the café is named after the legendary pilgrimage route in Spain. Open from 10 am to 6 pm, one of its great attractions is its outstanding value for money: a cup of coffee here costs 1,000 or 1,500 won (US$0.89-1.34,) while most places charge more than 5,000 won.

The 26-square-meter upstairs café is also popular for its airy atmosphere and views, made all the more interesting because the whole facade of the building is made of glass.

Located in a densely populated area and surrounded by apartment blocks, a library and several schools, it’s in a perfect catchment area so it’s no surprise that people have been flocking to it since its opening.

Choi Dong-hoon, a 35-year-old advertising executive, has become a regular already. “I often come here with my mother,” he says.

One of its busiest times is just after Mass, when parishioners gather for a drink and a chat.

“I feel comfortable and cozy in this place,” says one of the parishioners, Park Angela. “It’s like nestling in Jesus’ arms. The café  has increased my happiness index.”

In addition to selling hot drinks and snacks, the café also has a shop attached, offering fresh, environment-friendly farm produce. Rosaria Lim Kyung-ja, a volunteer at the shop, says that word is spreading and Catholics from other parishes are starting to visit specially.

It’s all part of a concerted campaign by the parish to open its doors and communicate with the neighborhood through a range of community activities. The campaign has gathered a lot more momentum since the completion of a brand new parish center last Autumn.

Father Augustine Yeo Hyeok-ku, the parish priest, says he plans “to hold cultural events like exhibitions and poetry readings at the café, so we can share with more and more people.”

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