Father John Choi Jae-kyeong, center, at the cathedral of Oita diocese in Japan (photo: Daejeon diocese)
A seminarian exchange program between the Japanese and Korean Churches has produced its first Korean priest in Oita diocese in Japan. Father John Choi Jae-kyeong of Daejeon diocese in South Korea begins his pastoral ministry as an assistant priest at Miyazaki Church today. He was ordained at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Oita City on March 21. Father Choi went to Japan as a seminarian in June, 2007 after Daejeon diocese agreed to send seminarians to Oita diocese earlier the same year. The program came about at the request of Oita diocese during the annual Korean-Japanese bishops' exchange meetings. The diocese has had a shortage of priests for several years. “I had difficulty in adjusting to the culture, because Japanese people are unfamiliar with Catholicism as most people follow Shintoism in Japan,” Fr. Choi said. Nevertheless, he said, “Japanese children have a lot of opportunities to meet Catholics because there are many Catholic schools in Oita now.” Also, “I would like to initiate a Japanese and Korean youth exchange program,” he said. Father Choi entered the Catholic University of Daejeon in 2000. After being sent to Oita diocese in 2007, he studied theology at Japan Catholic Seminary Fukuoka Campus from April 2008, and was ordained a deacon in March 2010. The number of Catholics at the Miyazaki Church number around 1,100 and the total number of Korean priests in Japan is about 10, Father Choi says. Related report 'Religions rush to aid Japan'