On July 6 Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk of Seoul, South Korea, ordained the first deaf-mute priest in Asia, Father Benedict Park Min-Seo, after 22 years of vocational discernment and study.
Father Park, who was born in 1965, lost his hearing at the age of two after he was prescribed the wrong medicine. He felt the calling to the priesthood at a very young age but because of his handicap he decided to become a painter.
At the school for the deaf he met Father Michael Cheong-Soon-o, to whom he revealed his desire to become a priest, but because of the lack of courses for the deaf in Korean seminaries he was sent to the United States.
In 1994 he entered the University of Gallaudet to study philosophy and mathematics, and there he met Father Thomas Coughlin, the first deaf priest in the US, who became his spiritual director. After graduating he studied theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York and then attended the University of St. John, where he received a degree in 2004. He returned to Seoul where he continued his studies at the seminary and was ordained a deacon in July of 2006.
“First of all I want to thank God for accepting me as a priest,” Father Park said after his first Mass. “As the first Catholic priest with a handicap, I was given a lot of media attention even before my ordination, but I am not a star, I’m an ordinary priest,” he said, asking the faithful to “pray for me to be a humble and honest priest.”
Father Michael Cheong Soon-o said, “The ordination of Father Mark shows God’s love for people who cannot hear or speak.” “We need to pray for him that he may be light and salt for handicapped persons,” he added.