'Would Jesus have built a church or a school here first? I think he would have built the school.'
Hailed as a '21st century saint,' Father Lee Tae-seok is remembered in Korea, Sudan, and among Catholics worldwide for his tireless efforts to improve the lives of the impoverished and sick in South Sudan.
Father Lee was born as the ninth of ten children to a poor family in Busan, South Korea. Despite his humble circumstances, he excelled in his studies and graduated from medical school. But to his family's surprise, he abandoned his medical career and joined the priesthood. He settled down in Tonj, a war-ravaged village in South Sudan.
The only doctor in the region, he saw more than 300 patients a day. In this desolate, impoverished village, there was no hospital, no school, no clean water, not even any building materials. With the help of the locals, Father Lee made the bricks for the new hospital complex himself. Going around in his van every Wednesday, he befriended the natives, especially those in the isolated leper colony.
Expanding his vision, he built a school to replace the one that had been destroyed during the war. He taught high school math and trained the children in music. Not long after, the Don Bosco Brass Band, which he coached and conducted, became the most famous musical act in South Sudan. The band members, who were youth and children, declared that they wished to melt the knives and guns of the adults and turn them into clarinets and trumpets.
After a struggle with cancer, he died only nine years after he had come to Tonj. He was 47 years old. After viewing footage of his funeral held in Korea, the villagers of Tonj decided to hold their own funeral for 'Father Jolly.' Defying military orders, they marched through the village square, the Don Bosco Brass Band leading the way. They said their final good-byes, but his memory lives on.
After 'Don't Cry for Me, Sudan' was released to the public, the story of Father Lee Tae-seok became a sensation in Korea. The documentary has received praise from citizens of all walks of life, including atheists and Buddhist monks. In 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the 'Lee Tae-seok Award' for volunteer workers in Africa. Later in that year, the documentary was played at the Vatican. Since then, it has been dubbed in more than four languages and played at Catholics centers all over the world.
Credit @ salesianvideo
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