Tucked away in West Chandler, St. Columba Kim is home to around 250 Korean Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix. The parish dedicated its own new church building in 2010, after having met for years at Queen of Peace in Mesa.
St. Columba Kim Mission
1375 N. McClintock Dr., Chandler
All Masses in Korean
Sunday Mass Times
5 p.m. (Saturday Vigil)
Daily Mass Times
8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday
9 a.m., Friday
“We have families from cities all over Maricopa County,” said Michael Nam, vice-president of the pastoral council and chairman of the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign at St. Columba Kim.
About 30 percent hail from Glendale, Peoria, Avondale and other cities across the county, driving a minimum of 45 minutes to get to church on Sunday. The other 70 percent live in East Valley cities.
They don’t dash to the parking lot after the final blessing, either. After Mass, the church provides a generous luncheon each Sunday. The parish is divided into regional districts that take turns providing the meal.
“It’s all volunteer work,” Nam said. “We talk about faith and God and other stuff.”
The church charges $5 per meal and profits are helping to pay down the mortgage on the church. The two Sunday Masses are in Korean but the religious education courses for children are taught in English. Money raised from the campaign will help pay to repaint classrooms as well as replace carpeting and repair roofing and air conditioning.
About half of the parishioners work in the tech industry, mostly as engineers, while the other half own small businesses such as restaurants, dry cleaners or, in Nam’s case, a commercial building maintenance company. Business ownership is one reason why two weekday Masses are held at 8:30 p.m. “They don’t close their stores until like 8 p.m.,” Nam said.
The parish community also celebrates important cultural and social events that bring people together such as the annual Korean New Year potluck. These are occasions to build and pass on cultural traditions.
By the Numbers
Number of families attending St. Columba Kim Mission
Percentage of participation of parishioners in the “Together” campaign
Average monthly gift per person for the “Together” campaign
Children enrolled in religious education
Percentage of parishioners who are small-business owners
Amount still owed on the mission’s mortgage
“Families bring their own food and we gather around together and play traditional Korean New Year games,” Nam said. “We also celebrate Korean Thanksgiving Day every year.” Chuseok, or “Autumn eve” is celebrated around the end of September or beginning of October every year.
Parishioners at St. Columba Kim are currently supporting three different funds. One is to pay off the mortgage; another is to pay the parish’s operational costs. The campaign represents a third fund and to date, 98 percent of parishioners have responded with a financial commitment.
“It was kind of hard to raise the money at the beginning, so we were surprised that it came to 98 percent participation.”
Some are giving $50 a month for the next five years; about 30 percent are giving more than $100 monthly.
“This is a real testament and witness to God’s love from the people at St. Columba Kim Mission,” said Fr. Kang Young Lee, pastor. “We are proud and believe this success could not have happened without the sacrifice and hard work of people who were involved in the campaign in St. Columba Kim Mission.”
The Korean Catholic Church is built on sacrifice. As many as 8,000 gave their lives as martyrs during the 19th century, including the mission’s patroness, St. Columba Kim Hyo-im. Columba and her sister Agnes lived in community with 13 other women who cared for the sick and poor.
When asked why they weren’t married, according to Catholic Online, she replied, “In order to cherish our body and heart in all purity, to serve and worship God, our supreme King and Father, Creator of heaven and earth, of spirits, mankind and everything that exists and to be able by this means to save our souls.” After suffering various tortures, Columba was beheaded Sept. 26, 1839.