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Chapter 5[2] Korea

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[p.46]
 Language is always a serious problem for the missioner. There are many theories about the time and training necessary to become proficient. Father Byrne cautioned : "A man who cannot speak the language of his adopted land is tempted to dissipate energy in ways that may be useful ; for example, a dispensary. But that will not bring the contentment that follows priestly functions ー preaching, baptizing, ministering to souls rather than bodies. Language study is so difficult that no one should be left to his own initiative in the matter."
 Early in 1924 Father Morris was assigned to Yengyou, while Father Cleary remained in Gishu where Father Byrne had purchased property. The price seemed a rather large outlay for a new mission, especially since the land was more than that needed. However, it was a case of all or nothing, and the superfluous property could be considered an investment. Father Byrne judged an establishment in Sin Gishu to be an urgent need. The 200 Christians there constantly appealed for a resident priest. In one letter, the missioner reported that on one occasion when he went to say Mass, he found six strangers who wanted to become Catholics because of the good example of the native faithful.
 In March, Father Byrne returned from Japan to where he had escorted two Maryknoll Sisters, Mother Mary Joseph and Sister Mary Paul, after their visit to various missions. "Mother Mary Joseph has promised six Sisters for Gishu. There are no suitable quarters for them elsewhere," he wrote. He mentioned once again the Mukden bishop's offer of a house in Antung, but several months elapsed before final arrangements were made to bring the Sisters there."
 When Fathers Cleary and Morris were well established, Father Byrne asked to be relieved of his office as mission superior. This request represented his sincere conviction that he would be better off in a subordinate position. He suggested Father Morris as his personal choice. He wrote that Father Morris was deeply spiritual, energetic, conservative, and had a better head for financial matters than he had. He also

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mentioned Father Morris' robust health and aptitude for the language. Another fact he brought up was that a superior should always be ready to go anywhere, and while his own health was excellent, occasionally he was bothered by attacks of dysentery.
 Father Walsh answered : "At the Council Meeting recently we took up seriously your desire to be Number Two rather than Number One, but 'honest to goodness' we could not see our way to make the change. Don't worry about the language. A man in your position can hardly be expected to acquire the desired proficiency. Monsignor Walsh in China has had a similar experience. Our constitutions are different from those of other organizations where men, before becoming missioners, have had a considerable period of trial."
 Because his letters and articles were so readable, it was assumed by many that composition came easily to constantly revised and rephrased his ideas. Many times he would put an article aside ; then, months later, pick it up, polish it, and send it to The Field Afar. His comments on the Korean temperature furnished a typical example.
 "No matter how cold the day, how early the Mass, the village community turns out and up. One of the Fathers here christened the churches 'holy refrigerators', but the Christians will come before Mass, to remain over, and should there be more Masses, to remain for all. We had been saying a thanksgiving Mass at the main altar every morning, but it is now being read in the sacristy chapel so as not to keep the faithful overlong in the unheated church. At times the Sacred Species will freeze in the chalice before the Communion and must be thawed by holding the cup in the hands and breathing upon it."
 Sympathetic and cold-blooded readers may infer from Father Byrne's comments that the celebrant in such a temperature acquired some special merit. However, the Japanese had invented tiny stoves about the size of a cake of soap, de-

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signed to burn a pencil of charcoal and to be held in the hands when the hands were in the pockets. Since it would be impossible to say Mass under such conditions, the missioner compromised by strapping the heaters to his wrists, and all went well.
 In 1924, Fathers Joseph H. Cassidy, of Millis, Massachusetts, and Patrick J. Duffy, of Brooklyn, New York, swelled the ranks. The letter figured in another series of comments on Korean weather, this time an over-supply of rain.
 "Splendid weather for colds! In fact, Father Duffy, our noble assistant, is almost refusing to take nourishment between meals. He says they have damp days in Ireland, but they don't overdo it. It is good weather for language study. We look for the phrase, 'Father Duffy is slightly indisposed today', but they don't say it that way in polite Korean. They would say, 'Father Duffy is not eating so mush today'. As there is not one bit of truth to that, we are forced into memorizing profound cogitations on the rain. They may come in handy for some sermon on the Flood.
 "Wednesday, Mass was as usual. Father Duffy is himself again, and so after breakfast we had to send the cook out to lay in a supply of edibles. Today is cloudy and lowering again ー a good day for devils."
 Several days later, on their way to church, they heard for the third successive day the monotonous tom-tom from the home of a very sick and probably dying woman, a pagan. Koreans considered the "devil of disease" to be a nervous individual, who abhorred noises in general and who had a particular aversion to tom-toms. Any possibility of the patient's natural recovery would hardly be favoured by seventy-two hours of continuous drumming in the ears. "What an accompaniment to the eternal judgement of an immortal soul!" commented Father Byrne. "Yet is she but one of the vast numbers whose religion of tom-toming is as empty of the essential charity as is 'sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal'."
 In the spring of 1925 Father Byrne wrote about building problems and hinted for the first time that he would like to

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obtain Brother William Neary of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Brother William was talking a course in carpentry and his talents covered every phase of planning and building. Father Byrne's hints worked, and after Brother William's arrival in the missions, he became responsible for over a hundred mission buildings ー rectories, churches, and schools ー in Korea and Japan.
 Later in that same year Father Byrne wrote to Father Francis J. Caffrey in Seattle and Father William S. Kress in Los Angeles, asking them to prepare some material that would show the work being done in the United States for the Japanese. He realized how swamped they were with the flood of details connected with schools and propaganda, but in view of the immense help it would be in establishing Maryknoll in Korea, he ventured to request that they have an album made with a dozen or so large photographs of the school, the children, loaded automobiles, and the Sisters in the convent, showing how the little men and women of Nippon were being cared for. He also suggested they include in the same album letters of commendation from the Japanese consul and influential Japanese societies. Those albums created the impression desired ; they proved that the Catholic Church really was interested in the Japanese, and helped to overcome a suspicion of American Catholics prevalent because of anti-Japanese legislation in the United States.
 About that time Father Byrne wrote of a possible operation to be undergone in Shanghai. At the bottom of his letter the duck was pictured stretched out on an operating table, being anæsthetized by a rather majestic-looking duck in a Korean hat. A third duck stood by, holding a saw. Father Byrne's premonitions were fulfilled, and shortly a letter arrived from the General Hospital in Shanghai. "I am just beginning to enjoy an absolute divorce from my appendix, unexpected but welcome. He hadn't shown any signs of villainy, but I requested the surgeon (operating for a hernia) to get his fingerprints. He did, arrested him at once on suspicion, and severed

[p.50]
diplomatic relations. If I were only a saint, it would make a splendid first-class relic."
 The arrangements that Father Byrne had tried to make with Bishop Blois of Mukden almost collapsed at an early stage. The catechist in Antung feared losing his job, and raised objections. He apparently caused the Bishop so much trouble that the matter was dropped temporarily. Father Byrne had planned to have the Sisters use the house in Antung until the convent at Yengyou should be completed. Eventually the letter from Shanghai announced the happy news that arrangements had finally been made with Bishop Blois to use the Antung property.
 "We are now getting the Antung convent into shape for the fall delegation. In my absence Bishop Blois visited Antung, approved of the pro tem. arrangement there, and called on the Gishu Sisters. In writing to the Bishop yesterday I mentioned your paragraph of May 25, about Propaganda's favourable attitude but unwillingness to define territorial limits. These the Bishop has outlined to me, as my earlier letter from Mukden stated, but of course neither definitely nor definitively. He'll give us a map some day ; and in the intervening years we'll have plenty to fill our hands here in Korea."
 Father Walsh's observations in a return letter are significant. "I judge from the tone of your letter that you are in good condition after your hospital experience, and I hope I judge you right. You smile so easily, though in pain, I often wonder how you really are."
 In the final letter of this series Father Byrne suggested my name for the Manchuria mission. The deciding factor, apparently, was some knowledge of French. He commented that the Bishop of Mukden was anxious to have someone in charge who would be acquainted with "la belle langue". He ended, "All goes well, except, unlike yourself, we are at present planning on a famine year for simoleons." The duck at the foot of the page had a dejected look and was having a dream in which the traditional three-ball sign of the pawnshop figured prominently.