Holy Childhood opens doors to share campus with Korean Catholics

| May 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

Massgoers join hands during the Our Father of the last liturgy at their church on Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul April 29. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

A statue of Korean martyr St. Andrew Kim stood next to the lectern at Holy Childhood in St. Paul for the first time during a Sunday Mass May 6. It signaled a significant change underway in the Como neighborhood: the pioneering of a unique relationship between Holy Childhood and St. Andrew Kim parishes, the latter of which serves the Korean Catholic community in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

On May 7, St. Andrew Kim sold its church along Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul and is now sharing a parish campus with Holy Childhood. After celebrating its final Mass at its previous church April 29, about 200 St. Andrew Kim parishioners gathered 7 miles north for their first Mass in their new home at Holy Childhood that first Sunday in May. Some Holy Childhood parishioners also attended in a gesture of welcome and support.

The relationship — two separate parishes sharing a single campus — is unique, said Dale Hennen, who works in the archdiocese’s Office of Parish and Clergy Services, and who has been helping St. Andrew Kim and Holy Childhood with the arrangement. It could also offer significant benefits for each parish.

Motivating factors

“The decision coming here, it was a really big and really important decision we had to make,” said Father Hak Sun Kim, St. Andrew Kim’s parochial administrator, speaking through an interpreter.

Two main factors prompted St. Andrew Kim’s move: The parish was experiencing financial strain, and it wanted to be closer to the University of Minnesota campus in order to better serve Korean students. In August 2017, the parish approached archdiocesan leaders about selling its campus and finding a new home.

From left, Benjamin, Karl, Moonsun and Daniel Christenson take a peek at the church bulletin at the end of Mass April 29. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Holy Childhood’s campus was the only Catholic church in the university’s vicinity that also met their criteria for classroom space, a social hall and kitchen, and office space, and that could accommodate an 11:15 a.m. Sunday Mass.

This isn’t St. Andrew Kim’s first move. The parish traces its roots to Sept. 26, 1973, when a group of Korean graduate students at the University of Minnesota came together for Mass at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

The Korean Catholic community organized as a parish in 1991, and ever since, St. Andrew Kim has served Korean immigrant Catholics in the archdiocese and western Wisconsin. The parish celebrates Mass in Korean and maintains a program for children to learn the Korean language and culture. The community first worshiped at a small Catholic church three blocks west of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on Cleveland Avenue that was previously home to Corpus Christi, before the latter built a new church in Roseville in 1992.

In 2007, St. Andrew Kim’s growth prompted a move to Mississippi River Boulevard on a site that had previously been St. Therese, before that parish’s cluster and eventual merger with two other Highland Park parishes to form Lumen Christi in 2005.

St. Andrew Kim hosted its Korean culture program in the parish’s convent originally built for Sisters of St. Joseph who taught at the parish school.

“There is a long history and, though we have kind of [a] few people relative to some other cultural communities around here, it’s still … a strong community bond,” Father Kim said.

For years, the parish was served by priests from the Archdiocese of Seoul, South Korea, but in 2015, its pastor left with no planned replacement. For several years, the parish celebrated Mass in English with local priests, or in Korean when visited by a Korean priest. Father Kim — a priest of the Diocese of Incheon, South Korea — was serving in campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when he learned of St. Andrew Kim’s need in 2016, and he began commuting many weekends to serve the Twin Cities Korean community. He regularly celebrated Mass for Korean students in Madison on Saturday evening before leaving early Sunday to celebrate Mass at St. Andrew Kim.

Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon met with Archbishop Bernard Hebda April 28, 2017, in St. Paul regarding assigning Father Kim to St. Andrew Kim. With another priest from Incheon assigned to Wisconsin, Father Kim was freed up to minister in the archdiocese. He officially began his role in February.

“Right now, we feel like our main duty to the community is to sustain [it] and grow,” Father Kim said.

Part of that will be circling back to its foundation with an increase in outreach to Koreans at the University of Minnesota. About 840 Koreans attend the U, according to College Factual, a New York-based online database. About 11 percent of South Koreans are Catholic.

Jan Ohm, a parishioner of St. Andrew Kim and University of Minnesota alumna, said that the St. Therese campus was a challenge to get to from the U without a car. In addition to its closer proximity to the U’s St. Paul campus, Holy Childhood has better access to public transportation.

“It was more difficult to get over here [the Mississippi River Boulevard site] unless you were involved in another church group such as the choir or Sunday school where people are already kind of heading that way,” she recalled.

St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church purchased the former St. Therese campus from St. Andrew Kim, ushering in a new cultural era for the 63-year-old church building.

New opportunities

Holy Childhood, according to “Gather Us In: A History of the Parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” “was one of 11 new parishes founded in the archdiocese in 1946 as military personnel returned home, married and started families in the period following the Second World War.” It is known for having been an early leader in liturgical innovations, such as turning its altar to face the congregation, and for its stained glass windows and modern sculptures.

Parishioners have warmly opened the doors to the Korean community. Members of Holy Childhood hope the partnership will energize their own community, which has seen membership decrease from around 300 households to 175 since the closing of its school in 2010. Language Arts Academy charter school leases the Holy Childhood school, and the parish doesn’t have a faith formation program for children and youths to use the school on evenings or weekends. Clustered with Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul, Holy Childhood shares a pastor, Father Timothy Cloutier, and has a light parish calendar with few activities. One part-time lay person is on staff.

Father Cloutier sees the arrangement with St. Andrew Kim as a win-win for both parish communities.

“I just presented [the opportunity] to them [the parish council] as a possibility to reach out, as we’re trying to … build up our community,” Father Cloutier said. “We’re going to help someone else because we’re part of the larger Church, and we can’t focus exclusively on ourselves. We have to lift others up as we ask others to help us.”

Holy Childhood trustee Dick Hawkins, who helped facilitate negotiations with St. Andrew Kim, said the addition will bring a lot of life to the parish. He expressed an eagerness to welcome the Korean community.

Mary Ellen Clasemann, longtime Holy Childhood parishioner and parish council member, agreed.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing learning new cultures,” she said. “I think it will draw more people in.”

Adaptations have been required of both parishes. With the move, St. Andrew Kim had to end its Sunday School program early for the year. The parish also has considered plans to move its Masses off site during the State Fair.

Leaders from both parishes still have finer details to work out with scheduling on its shared calendar. The possibility of some joint events has been considered, too.

Holy Childhood celebrates weekend Masses at 5 p.m. Saturday and 9:15 a.m. Sunday. In addition to its 11:15 a.m. Sunday Mass, St. Andrew Kim also celebrates a regular 7 p.m. Mass on Friday.

At their first Mass on the Holy Childhood campus May 6, St. Andrew Kim parishioners continued long-held traditions, such as their approach to the offertory: filing forward in a line to bow before the altar and place their offering in wicker baskets perched on the Communion rail.

“This is a beginning step,” St. Andrew Kim parish council member Yoon Lee said about adjusting to a new church.

When both parishes agreed to give the campus-sharing a go April 25, its leaders didn’t determine how long the arrangement would continue. Father Kim envisions the Korean community eventually moving to its own campus. In the meantime, he expects the current arrangement to fortify the community.

“We don’t have a physical building currently, but we still think that the emotional connections between us are going to grow and become stronger,” he said. “Those are our hopes and plans for the future.”

For the foreseeable future, however, St. Andrew Kim is thankful to have a home that meets its needs.

“We feel like, as Korean immigrants and also as Christians, that we’ve been very welcomed, so we’re very grateful for that,” Father Kim said. “Because of all the things that have happened, we’re very grateful to everybody who has been a big help to our parish.”

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