Home of Korean Catholic Community elevated to full parish, receives new pastor

AUBURNDALE -- Sunday Mass at St. Antoine Daveluy Parish in Auburndale on Jan. 28 represented the start of a new era for the parish, which since 1976 has been a spiritual home for the Archdiocese of Boston's Korean Catholic community. Since 2013, the parish was a quasi-parish, sharing space with Corpus Christi-St. Bernard Parish in Newton. On Jan. 15, St. Antoine's, named after a French missionary martyred in Korea on Good Friday 1866, officially became a parish of its own. The parish now owns the Corpus Christi Church building, which was gifted to the community by Corpus Christi-St. Bernard Parish in 2016.

On Jan. 28, the Korean community celebrated its new status as a full parish, as well as an installation Mass for a new pastor, Father Christopher Bae.

"I would like to thank God for giving me this opportunity," Father Bae said in his homily, which was delivered to a standing-room-only church. "I'm very happy to serve St. Antoine Daveluy Parish as pastor. Please continue to pray for the Korean community and for me so that I can be a faithful servant of God."

Father Bae, 40, is the 11th Korean priest to serve the Korean community in Boston, but the first pastor of an independent Korean parish. The previous priests, he said, were only quasi-pastors of a quasi-parish.

"This is a truly historic moment for Korean Catholics in Boston," he said. "Since this parish is my home parish, we no longer have to look for priests from outside."

He said that in order to keep the parish alive, "we must foster more vocations." He quoted Sts. John Bosco and Alphonsus Liguori, saying that for every three children, there is one vocation. He saw 60 children at Mass.

"So it is a matter of time that we will have 10 priests and 10 religious sisters from our parish," he said. "God is calling you, don't be afraid. It is a truly blessed life."

He thanked his friends and colleagues, including priests, deacons, religious, and parishioners from his former parishes of St. Columbkille in Brighton and St. Mary in Franklin.

"The reason I am introducing each priest, deacon, religious, and seminarian is especially for the young people who are here," he said. "Many of you are called to a beautiful vocation to marriage, but one out of three of you are called to a beautiful vocation to the priesthood or religious life."

West Region Bishop Robert Reed concelebrated the Mass and also delivered a homily.

"Pardon me if I speak in a less beautiful language called English," he said. "My Korean is a little tough."

He said that Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, who was in Rome and could not attend the Mass, sent his regards to the new parish and pastor. He also jokingly called Father Bae "the best-dressed priest in the archdiocese."

"And beyond that, of course, he is a great guy," Bishop Reed said. "A very gifted and talented individual and excellent priest. You are very lucky."

Following the Mass, the celebration continued with a banquet of homemade Korean food in the parish hall.

"This is the best Korean food in Boston because it is cooked by Korean moms," Father Bae said.

Father Bae told The Pilot that he wants to reach out to the larger Korean community in Boston.

"I feel really honored and privileged to serve this community," he said. "This parish has a lot of potential. We have great people, and we are financially stable."

Father Bae was ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2016, after attending St. John's Seminary. He was born in South Korea, and his family converted to Catholicism when he was in his early teens. When Father Bae was 15, his father got a new job in California and moved the family to the U.S. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a high-paying job at a consulting firm in Boston -- but he wasn't happy.

"I felt empty," he said. "You can always get a better house. You can always get a better car. There's no end to this."

When he was in his late 20s, he started thinking about his future -- marriage, children, retirement, and ultimately death. He wanted to know the meaning of life, and why he was alive at all.

"Is it true that I'm really going to die?" He thought to himself. "What if there's no God, no Heaven? There's so many people who don't believe in God. What is the truth?"

In 2010, he joined St. Antoine's on a 10-day mission trip in Haiti. The experience changed his life, particularly when he saw a dying one-year-old girl while volunteering at an orphanage.

"I would ask myself, 'Why is she dying?'" He recalled. "'How come she is orphaned, and I am not?' And then I realized I could have been born in Haiti just like her. Everything that I have is a pure gift from God. I really have to share with others."

Also on the trip was a 23-year-old religious brother. Father Bae asked the brother why he was on the trip instead of going to college and finding a successful career. The brother replied that this is where Jesus told him to be.

"Once I heard that, it really touched me," Father Bae said, "because before, my life was all about me."

He wanted to live like that religious brother. When he came home, he began to pray and question what he would do next. He consulted with Father Dominic Jung, whom Father Bae would ultimately replace as pastor of St. Antoine's. Father Jung suggested that Father Bae become a priest.

"I would say that Korean Catholics are very strong in faith," Father Bae said. "They're respectful of the priesthood and they love the church."

Editor's note:

In our original Feb. 2 story, we incorrectly reported that the Korean Catholic community purchased Corpus Christi Church in installments. While the Korean community had previously rented the church, the property was gifted by Corpus Christi-St Bernard Parish in 2016.