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30 Years of Faith and Service: Filipino Augustinians in South Korea

Filipino Augustinians in Korea 3

In 2023, a remarkable milestone is reached as the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu– Philippines celebrates 30 years of unwavering commitment in South Korea.

This journey of faith and service began with several Filipino Augustinians collaborating with the Augustinian Regional Delegation of Korea. 

The Delegation comprised three Australians, one Filipino, and Korean Seminarians after the English Province decided to return permanently to England.

The story of their dedication and impact unfolded through the years with the increasing number of seminarians and ordained native Korean priests.

The Regional Delegation became part of the Augustinian Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel – Australia.

The Beginnings

The Augustinian presence in Korea started in 1985, a result of an initiative after the Augustinian General Chapter in Rome in 1983.

Four Augustinians came, two from the Australian Province and two from the England and Scotland Province.

In 1990, the first community was established in Incheon upon the invitation of Most Rev. William John McNaughton, M.M., Bishop of the Diocese of Incheon.

The Filipino Pioneers

Eight years after the arrival of the Augustinians in South Korea, the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu– Philippines responded to the call for more Augustinian missionaries in South Korea following the withdrawal of the England and Scotland Province from the mission.

The first Filipino Augustinian sent to embark on this new journey in 1993 was Fr. Arlon Vergara, OSA.

He served as Parish Priest of St. Therese Catholic Church in Onsuri, Kangwha, South Korea, and as a Regional Delegation Superior.

Adam Bede Lasmarias came to Korea three years later, followed by Fr. Armando Dayao, OSA.

The presence of the three Filipino Augustinians in Korea was also a result of a commitment during the Ordinary Provincial Chapter in 1992.

After the first three Filipino Augustinians, Fr. Dennis Cuervo, OSA, and Fr. Pacifico Nohara Jr., OSA were sent to Korea in 2005.

Fr. Cuervo returned to the Philippines in less than a year, while Fr. Nohara stayed until 2011.

Since then, the Province was not able to send friars until 2016 with the arrival of Fr. Tarquin Gamao, OSA, and the return of Fr. Dennis Cuervo, OSA.

Continuing the mission

The Filipino Augustinians played a crucial role in sustaining the mission in South Korea from 1993 to the present.

From being personnel in some of the communities in South Korea, the focus of the Filipino Augustinians shifted to being pastors to the growing number of Filipino migrants in the country.

Fr. Cuervo, OSA, currently residing in the Yeon-Cheon community, serves as the chaplain of the Exodus Center for Filipino Catholic migrant workers in Paju.

Goyang - Paju Community
Visit of Fr. Alejandro Moral Anton, OSA, OSA Prior General, to a migrant center in Goyang-Paju Filipino Catholic Community, together with the Delegation of South Korea during his canonical visit last June 4, 2023.

He also holds the position of Chair in the Filipino Clergy and Religious Missionaries in South Korea.

Additionally, Fr. Gamao, OSA, based in Incheon Community, also serves as the Filipino Chaplain to the Ma-Seok community in northeast Seoul.

Aside from the Ma-Seok community, Fr. Gamao also extends pastoral ministry to the Gwangjeok and Hyewa Filipino Communities.

Meanwhile, Fr. Nohara, currently residing in Kang-hwa, dedicated his service to the South Korean Delegation from 2005 to 2011.

He recently returned to Korea on June 20, 2022, taking on a dual role as a member of the Korean Delegation’s Council and Director of Professed in the formation program.

On the 30th anniversary of the arrival of the first Filipino Augustinians in South Korea, the Province continues to support the journey of faith of the Augustinian Delegation of Korea and the Korean people and the migrants.

At present, the Korean Delegation is working on establishing its migrant center in response to the call of Pope Francis in the synodal path that the Church leads to see those who are most vulnerable, among whom are migrants and refugees.

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