A biography of the Salesian missionary, Fr. John Tae-seok Lee, published on the occasion of the Feast of the Mary Help of Christians
By Ivo Seon-ho Choe
President of the Fr. John Lee Memorial Foundation.
Seoul, Korea, 24 May 223 -- “If Jesus had been here, he would certainly have built a school before a church.” This was the thought that crossed Fr. Tae-Seok Lee's mind when he first encountered the situation in the small town of Tonj, South Sudan, where he served as a missionary. He made this promise when he realized that the children in the mission territory were very eager to learn, but they were unable to fulfill their desire to learn because their schools and educational environment had been completely destroyed by the long civil war.
Fr. Lee entered the Salesians in 1991, already a medical doctor, studied at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome, and was ordained priest on June 24, 2001, in Seoul, Korea, and sent to the missionary in South Sudan, Africa, in November of that year. After eight years of various pastoral activities as a medical doctor and missionary in Tonj, he was diagnosed with colon cancer in November 2008 and died in Seoul in January 2010 after receiving treatment in Korea.
Although his life was fairly short at 48 years, he touched and influenced many people deeply, and those who admired his life and spirit formed an internet community, and then formed a sponsorship organization to support his educational missionary work. After his death, several books and documentary films were written about him, and his life became better known.
“I have no hesitation in calling Fr. Lee a sacrament. Like all of us, he had his human limitations and repeatedly showed himself to be inadequate and full of shame, but instead of hiding them, he embraced them openly and lived the life of a priest and religious who, in reflection and prayer, entrusted himself completely to God. What makes his life shine brighter than any number of extraordinary talents or stories of brilliant achievement sand successes is that he is that while he was as weak as the rest of us, he was able to humble himself before God. In this way, and with the power of self-emptying that he gained, he invited many to join him on the path of good Christian upright citizenship.” Lawyer Sun-ho Choe, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fr. John Tae-seok Memorial Foundation, said when he published a biography of Fr. John Lee.
The new biography details Fr. Lee's life from childhood to death and is richly illustrated with relevant photographs. In particular, the biography is enhanced by Michaela Kang's excellent illustrations of his religious background, his work as a Salesian missionary and doctor in Tonj, his spiritual struggles during his illness, and his humble dependence on God.
Published by Don Bosco Media in Seoul, the 250-page book will sell for USD 20 and will be donated to the Salesian General Council members and one copy to each province. The digital version can be downloaded from BoscoLink.