The president of Korea Moon Jae-In issued a special message of sympathy acknowledging Fr PJ McGlinchey’s contribution to the people of Jeju, after the Columban missionary died on Monday 23 April 2018 at the Isidore Hospice in Jeju.
Columban Patrick James McGlinchley, or PJ as he was fondly known, had collapsed earlier on 9 April and was taken to Halla Hospital in Jeju City.
He grew gradually weaker and on 23 April the hospital medical team moved him back to the hospice beside his home in Isidore. He died later that afternoon.
During his time in hospital he was lovingly cared for by the people to whom he had devoted his life. His three nieces Afric, Lisa and Ann together with his nephew Ray had been with him for the previous week.
His three nieces were with him when he died along with Columbans Michael Riordan, Frank Ferrie, some Poor Clare sisters, Salesian sisters, parishioners and the sisters at the holy Family Congregation who work at the hospice.
Due to home and work commitments in Ireland, his three nieces had to fly back to Ireland that evening but Ray, who got word of PJ’s death while getting ready to leave from Inchon airport, decided to return to Jeju for the funeral.
Beginning on Tuesday 24 April, PJ was waked in the parish Church of Hallim where he had been appointed as first pastor in 1954.
The priests of the diocese set up a rota and for three days (Tues, Wed & Thurs) celebrated Mass for PJ every 2 hours in Hallim Church beginning at 6am with the final Mass at 10pm.
And as each Mass ended, the Litany for the Dead was prayed by all present.
People flocked to the Church during those three days and the parish provided a meal for everyone. At the same time at every Church in the diocese a memorial altar was set up with a picture of PJ and people prayed for him during that time. Not just the believers but people from all strata in society came to pay their respects.
Not just from the island but they came from all over Korea and from overseas as well. It was an extraordinary tribute to his life.
PJ was buried on Friday morning with the funeral Mass celebrated in the Church of the Blessed Trinity which he had built. The Church was packed to capacity (it seats 2,400) – with people overflowing into the yard.
Some 80 priests concelebrated Mass along with the bishop Peter Kang U-Il of Jeju, his auxiliary and the retired bishop of Jeju.
Bishop Kang in his homily said that while he was sad at PJ’s death he was also envious of the prolific life led by PJ. His contribution to the lives of the people of Jeju, devastated by the Jeju April 1948 Massacres and the Korean War, was extraordinary.
He listed all the services provided by the Isidore Corporation and while marveling at how one man could do much he reminded all present, quoting PJ, that the main force behind his achievements was a rock solid trust in God.
Bishop Kang was assisted at the altar by Domingo Kim Jeong-Geun (Columban Director) and also Michael Riordan (PJ’s successor at Isidore).
At the end of the Mass a number of people paid tributes to PJ.
Kevin O’Neill, the superior General, who was in Korea for the Columban Assembly, thanked God for PJ’s life and the inspiration he gave to others – he also thanked the diocese and the people for journeying with PJ.
Michael Riordan also thanked everyone and spoke movingly of PJ and his own relationship with him.
After the Mass the coffin was carried to the grave by a team of Jeju and Columban priests. PJ had picked his own burial site on a hill overlooking his life’s work at Isidore.
There the ancient prayers were offered by Bishop Kang and Michael Riordan. The grave was blessed and PJ was committed to the earth from which he came. People silently watched as the grave was filled and then one by one they all departed.
May PJ rest in Peace.
PJ (Patrick James) McGlinchey
PJ was born on 6 June 1928 in Raphoe, Co Donegal. His mother was Sarah Boyle and his father was Patrick McGlinchey, one of two veterinarians in Co Donegal.
The fifth born in a family of six boys and four girls. He attended St Eunan’s College in the cathedral city of Letterkenny and later went to Dalgan where he was ordained on 21 December 1951.
PJ often said that his time in Dalgan were the happiest days of his life.
He was appointed to Korea and arrived in Pusan on 11 April 1953 with his classmates while the Korean War was still being fought further North.
After about seven months of language study he was appointed assistant to the parish of Suncheon in the Jeolla Province where he worked for about 5 months.
From there he was appointed to start a parish in Hallim which would become the third parish in Jeju. He arrived by boat to the island on 17 April 1954.
To promote evangelisation, P.J hired seven full-time catechists and sent them to various villages in the area.
Over the years, six parishes have been established in the villages to which these catechists were sent to preach the gospel.
In Hallim he organised the first Legion of Mary meeting to be held in Jeju. The handbook was not available in Korean at that time so PJ translated it as best he could during the meeting.
As he did not report this meeting to HQ, it was not recorded so till this day Jung Ang parish in Jeju city gets the credit for the first Legion meeting in Jeju.
After the war free corn was available to feed the people. PJ, fearing that people might become Catholics just to get food, gave all the catechumens a rigorous test before approving them for baptism.
He was also very careful not to discriminate on the basis of religion in distributing free food.
He felt very strongly that giving food to the starving should only be the first step in aid. In order not to make the people dependent on handouts he felt it necessary to facilitate people helping themselves to become financially independent.
He believed that if he was going to preach a loving God he had to show that love in concrete ways and so he started a process of reading the “signs of the times” and responding.
He often quoted Matthew 25 “Whatever you do to the least … you do to me“. The various projects he set up were not seen as an alternative to or an optional part of evangelization but rather as an integral part of what he was called to do as a missionary in Korea.
Among the works he started in response to the situation at the time were: setting up the 4H club; a knitting and weaving industry with the help of the Columban Sisters; helping set up small independent farms across the island; the pig industry and a cooperative; a feedmill; a training farm; a milk and cheese factory (later transferred to the dairy cooperative).
He set up the first credit union on the island and also established an organic dairy farm and developed a stud farm to train horses.
He invited the Poor Clare sisters from the US to establish their first Korean foundation in Jeju.
He set up an old folks home (later to become a nursing home); a clinic with the Columban Sisters (later to develop into a hospice for the dying); a kindergarten and youth education centre; a retreat house and pilgrimage site (known as the ‘Hill of Grace’) containing life sized statues showing scenes from the life of Christ; the stations of the cross and more recently resurrection scenes.
Various religious congregations were invited to work and minister in these initiatives. All these educational and social welfare projects were promoted under the auspices of the Isidore Development Association and supported by income from the farm and the feedmill.
PJ received many accolades and prizes over the years and his comment always was ‘I did nothing to deserve this; it is God’s work helped by all the people around’.
Among the ways he was referred to in Jeju included; a pioneer of Social projects in Jeju; a promoter of Cooperatives; a present given by Heaven to Jeju; a blue eyed hero; a star of the modernisation of Jeju; a priest who repeated the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.
On 23 April at the age of 90, PJ died in the Hospice which he had founded at Isidore. May he rest in Peace.