.- What can a missionary in North Korea do to preach the Gospel in a Communist dictatorship? Simply care for the sick patients he is there to help, says one priest in that situation.
“We are the message of the Gospel, and we try to imitate it,” Fr. Gerard Hammond, M.M. of the Maryknoll Missionaries told CNA of his work in North Korea ministering to multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis patients.
“How did people recognize the first Christians?” he asked. “Well they recognized them because they saw their love and concern for themselves and the small, tiny community.”
“If you can just show a little love and concern, say, for the multi-drug-resistant TB patients in North Korea, you are fulfilling what the early Christians did.”
Fr. Hammond was honored by the Knights of Columbus with the Gaudium et Spes Award last week for his missionary work in North Korea treating those suffering from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members worldwide. The Gaudium et Spes Award, named after one of the four constitutions of the Second Vatican Council “on the church in the modern world,” is the highest honor given by the Knights and is “awarded only in special circumstances and only to individuals of exceptional merit.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta was the first person to receive the Gaudium et Spes Award in 1992. The award includes an honorarium of $100,000.
Fr. Hammond entered the seminary for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in 1947 and was ordained a priest in 1960. “I had always wanted to become a priest,” he told CNA.
He was assigned to Korea as a young missionary. “It was never said in my mission assignment ‘north’ or ‘south,’” he said, adding that same is true of assignments given to “the nuncios that come to Korea,…the Church is always thinking…not North or South, it’s Korea, or the Korean people.”
However, when he first received his assignment to Korea, Fr. Hammond realized the challenges that awaited him.
“My spiritual director said to me two things. One, he said your trust in God is weak, which is true. Another thing is to know your limitations.”
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