Korean Catholics mark 40th anniversary

The Korean Catholic Community of the Diocese of Pittsburgh celebrated its 40th anniversary Sept. 15 with Mass at their church, St. John Cantius in Sharpsburg, and a picnic at Deer Lakes Park near Tarentum.

Attending, along with many of the founding members of the KCC, were about 150 others, including young families with children. Leader of the group is Korean chaplain Father H. Yeong Cherol Lee.

An original KCC member, St. Joseph Sister Min Shik Kim of Baden said many of the first members were medical doctors.

“But now we have a lot of young people,” she said. “They come to Pittsburgh for their education, PhD. program. The majority are PhD. candidates, or some people are teaching at a university. So the education level is very high.”

Brian Kim, who has been a member of the local KCC for 13 years, said the group is more diverse than it used to be. Some members are third-generation Korean-Americans who don’t speak the Korean language, but they enjoy the cultural bonds that are shared.

“Most of us live in Pittsburgh, but some families come from as far as Greensburg, Irwin, Ohio and West Virginia because it’s the only Korean Catholic Community in the tri-state area,” he said.

Sister Min Shik explained that “When you have a language barrier, with a difficult life of immigration, when you pray in your native tongue, and when you see people together interacting, it is best for mental health and worship.”

The KCC has been moved to different sites in the diocese over the past 40 years. It first met at Synod Hall in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood in 1979. Korean Masses moved to the adjacent St. Paul Cathedral the following year, where they remained until 1983, when they moved to the former St. Elizabeth Church in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

In 1993, the KCC moved to St. Pamphilus in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood and remained there until 2006, before moving to Sharpsburg.

Father Michael Decewicz, former Sharpsburg pastor and now senior parochial vicar in the Lower Allegheny parish grouping, attended the anniversary picnic. He congratulated the community on its 40th anniversary.

“Thank you so much for being in Sharpsburg. We’re glad you’re here, and we love you,” he said.

Brian Kim, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University who works for IBM, said the KCC’s anniversary picnic is always right after the Korean Thanksgiving, which was Sept. 13 this year.

He said the KCC is dedicated to St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean Catholic priest, who was martyred in 1846 along with more than 100 others. They were canonized by St. John Paul II in 1984.

“The KCC is our spiritual home where we can rest and celebrate God’s blessings, but at the same time, the community is the only place we can teach our culture and heritage to our children,” such as a Korean language school, Sunday school and heritage day, Brian said. “It’s a ‘home away from home’ for many immigrants like us.”