In a land area of 8,931 square kilometers, the Wonju diocesan territory includes the cities of Donghae (part), Samcheok, Wonju, Taebaek and counties of Yeongwol, Jeongseon, Pyeongchang (part), Hoengseong in Gangwon-do (province) and also Jecheon-si (city) and Danyang-gun (county) in Chungcheongbuk-do (province). Wonju diocese is one of the smallest dioceses of the Korean Church in terms of Catholic population and borders the dioceses of Andong, Cheongju, Chunchon and Suwon.
The diocese belongs to the ecclesiastical province of Seoul which comprises Seoul archdiocese; the dioceses of Chunchon, Daejeon, Incheon, Suwon, Uijeongbu and Wonju; the North Korean dioceses of Hamhung and Pyongyang; and the Territorial Abbacy of Tokwon, also in North Korea.
Wonju diocese was carved out from Seoul archdiocese on March 22, 1965, as a suffragan diocese of Seoul Metropolitan. At that time, it had only 13 parishes and about 13,390 Catholics served by 20 priests, including 11 foreign priests of the Missionary Society of St. Columban.
Wonju diocese has several holy shrines, including Baeron, where early Catholics built "Christian villages" while fleeing persecution.
The Baeron shrine is one of the most famous and historical shrines for Korean Catholics. It is located deep in a mountainous area where the early Korean Catholics hid to escape the persecution of 1791. Here, they built six "Christian villages," kept their faith strong, and lived as farmers and pottery workers.
What makes the shrine famous is a cave in which a martyr wrote a long letter to the French government and to the Catholic Church there, describing the persecutions in Korea and asking for help. The letter was intercepted by the government before it was sent to France, and the author killed.
A tomb of Father Thomas Choi Yang-up, the second Korean priest, who was called "martyr of sweat," is also famous. The priest walked long distances to make pastoral visits for 12 years after his ordination in 1849 in Shanghai, China. He died of fatigue and a contagious disease in what is now Andong diocese.
The Baeron Seminary is the first theologate in the Korean Catholic Church. It was established in 1856 and is now the Seoul Major Seminary.
In Wonju diocesan jurisdiction, the population is 866,728 at the end of 2017. (Some 1.9 percent of the whole population 51 million in the country) Most residents are ethnic Koreans.
Standard Korean is in use. English, a mandatory subject in schools, can be spoken and understood in tourist areas. All traffic signs are in English as well as Korean.
Wonju diocese falls within the temperate zone and has the four distinctive seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The yearly average temperature of Wonju is 10.8 degrees Celsius. The annual precipitation in the region averages 1,291 millimeters. Most of the rainfall is concentrated in the rainy months of June through September.
Wonju is located in a central area of the Korean peninsula and is in Gangwon province, one of highest mountainous areas in South Korea. The eastern region of the province comprises scenic coastal strips.
Gonsalo's martyrdom at Nagasaki with the other Christian missionaries is regarded as the most tragic and historic event for Catholicism in Japan
Calungsod and his companion Father Vitores baptized infants, children and adults, defying the risk of persecution and murder
Despite being an ordinary layman, Ruiz remained defiant while facing torture by the Japanese and died a brave martyr
He was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea
This fabled church is also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross) Church
Asian Catholics who cannot visit famous Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France can revere miraculous Mother Mary at Velankanni shrine in India. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as “the Lourdes of the East” and holds the largest Catholic Church in Asia.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
The shrine holds a three-meter-tall, white-stone carved statue Virgin Mary on the Tao Pao Mountain in the Diocese of Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam, about 1,600 kilometers from the national capital Hanoi.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Urakami of Nagasaki is a witness of persecution of Christians from 17th to 19th centuries and deadly atomic bombing during the Second World War. This European-style, red-brick church continues to preserve some relics that survived the atomic bombing. Urakami cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was almost destroyed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The church stood about 500 meters from the hypocenter of atomic explosion. The devastation shattered and charred stone-made statues of saints, which were later preserved as relics along with the surviving head of Virgin Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church is Yuzawadai is among the most famous churches in Japan. The church shot into global fame thanks to a wooden statue of Blessed Virgin Mary that wept 101 times and Marian apparitions to Japanese nun Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa that miraculously healed her hearing impairment. Japanese wooden sculptor Saburo Wakasa from Akita city carved the now-famous miraculous statue of Virgin Mary in 1963.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria is a small church on the western Belait district of Brunei, but it shot into fame thanks to the nation’s most famous Catholic – late Cardinal Cornelius Sim. It is also the second of three churches in Brunei dedicated to Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary has a prominent place not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, the dominant faith in Brunei. Holy Quran mentions Mary seventy times and reveres her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.