Christ calls, Asians respond

Lent series 2023

South Korea

Atheist Korean woman joins Church in search of divine love

By John Choi

April 05, 2023 03:13 AM

The tolling of church bells made the teacher pause and develop an inner urge to go to church

Kim Min-ji looks forward to turning a new leaf in her life as she receives Baptism to become a Catholic during Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023

Kim Min-ji looks forward to turning a new leaf in her life as she receives Baptism to become a Catholic during Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023. (Photo: Supplied)

With new buds appearing and trees leafing out heralding spring in South Korea, atheist Kim Min-ji is looking forward to turning over a new leaf by becoming a Catholic.

The turnaround in the life of the 31-year-old woman began with her new career as a teacher at the Suwon diocese-run Anbeop High School.

“I’d like being a teacher helping students find their talents and to be faithful, keeping an eye on others with a warm heart. I’m somewhat nervous as I’m a beginner in the school and the Church,” she told UCA News as she prepares to be baptized into the Catholic Church this Easter Vigil on April 8.

On Feb 21, the day before Ash Wednesday, Kim started work as a teacher in the 124-year-old Church-run school, which Servant of God and French missionary Father Antonio Gombert founded in Gyeonggi province’s Anseong city in 1909.

Her decision to become a Catholic was not sudden but the culmination of a journey she began after graduating from university and majoring in Chinese.

Thereafter, for five years she worked in an office before quitting that job to become a school teacher.

“I wanted to live a life serving society. I thought the teaching profession is the most important thing in society,” Kim said.

She joined a graduate school in 2020 to be trained as a certified teacher. At the time, she also volunteered to work at a local library teaching Chinese to children. 

The interaction with children and teaching them the language set her “more in tune with society, and develop a sense to love others,” she said.

“Until then, I didn’t know that I loved others that much. I wanted to give more to the children and tried to find a source of love that doesn’t dry up. That search ended in the Church,” she revealed.

While preparing for the teacher’s certificate examination, Kim heard the bells toll daily at the nearby Ojeondong Church in Suwon. It made her pause and develop an inner urge to go to church.

This urge, which kept growing, eventually led her to a catechumen class in the parish.

In December last year, she visited the parish church and asked how she could be a Catholic. The parish priest suggested she join a catechumen program that began in January.

While attending Mass as a catechumen since January, she says she has experienced a lot of love from the parishioners.

“They've helped me adapt to the catechumen classes and guided me at every level. If this church is that much warmer, I thought, I have to go to this church,” she said.

“Most of all, when I pray to God, I feel something overwhelming in my heart,” she added.

“I’m not an emotional person but whenever I pray inside a church, tears roll out without even me knowing about it. Maybe because I think God loves me regardless of what I do and cares for me with love.”

As a Catholic teacher, she chose Margaret as her baptismal name to help her follow the spirituality of French saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal and educated young girls and indigenous people in Canada.

“Whenever I pray to God, I’m asking for sound heart and health to embrace all the students. I’d like to be a teacher helping students have self-confidence by seeking and developing their talents and I want to be a good faithful person, sharing God’s love with others in the hope that God is always with me,” she said.

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