A new book is available about the life of Maryknoll Fr. Gerard Hammond, a missioner with more than 60 years in ministry on the Korean Peninsula. The following article was published in the September-October 2023 issue of NewsNotes.
In 2019, Fr. Gerard Hammond, MM, gave a series of nine interviews to researchers at the Catholic Institute of Northeast Asia Peace that have been published in English in a book entitled “The Romance of the Mission: A Story of a Maryknoll Missionary Who Loved Both Koreas.” First published in Korean in 2020 under the title “The Journey of a Missionary,” the English translation of the book is now available for sale by Amazon as a paperback and ebook.
With more than 60 years in ministry based in South Korea, Fr. Hammond told the interviewers about his experiences pastoring people recovering from the devastation of war in South Korea as well as people isolated behind the world’s last iron curtain in North Korea. Looking back, Fr. Hammond’s message to readers is “more compassion is needed, and more risk.”
In a chapter called “Hard Times and Good Times,” Fr. Hammond describes the first church where he served as a pastor in the early 1960s. “The neighborhood was particularly impoverished in a country already devastated by conquest, colonialism, and war. North Korean refugee parishioners and young priests alike, we all struggled to build our community together.” Remembering the bitter cold winters and thin shoes and socks, Fr. Hammond said, “Despite all the physical deprivations, the passion and sincerity of their faith was unwavering.”
For the last 20 years of his ministry, Fr. Hammond participated in quarterly visits to reclusive North Korea delivering lifesaving medications to people suffering from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, the deadliest form of the highly contagious respiratory illness that often requires at least two years of treatment.
In his last interview at the end of 2019, Fr. Hammond said, “It is now four years since I have been able to return to North Korea with medicine for multidrug-resistant TB patients. I never had the chance to say goodbye and to mention that I had hoped to live the remaining years of my life in close contact with them. Together we were builders of reconciliation, unity and peace.”
Now 90 years old, Fr. Hammond has demonstrated with his life that a culture of encounter and dialogue is the way to dispel fear and build peaceful relationships.
Faith in action:
Read Fr. Hammond’s book https://mogc.info/RotM-GH
Photo of Fr. Hammond’s book's cover courtesy of Amazon