A Brief History of St. Paul Chong Hasang Parish
Prior to the establishment of St. Paul Chong Hasang Catholic Church, Korean parishioners were attending an American Catholic Church. There were many difficulties for the Korean parishioners, such as the language barrier and the differences of customs and culture. Confession proved especially awkward. It was clear that the Korean people needed a Korean Priest. Bishop Vincent Harris, Diocese of Austin, recognized these difficulties and prayed for a Korean priest to fill this need. The Lord sent Brother Kim Sae Eul to St. Joseph’s Church from Mexico in 1982. He greatly aided the spirituality of the Korean people.
The Korean congregation grew with the leadership of Brother Kim at St. Joseph’s Church. They started a building fund and prayed for a larger church to support the growth. Bishop Harris ordained Brother Kim as Assistant Priest for St. Joseph’s Church. The Korean parish then sought to build a Korean Catholic Church. Approximately nine acres of land was purchased for $32,000 on November 14, 1985. In preparation for the new church (now the Old Parish Hall), the Korean congregation then had a religious retreat in March 1986, and assembled a choir to praise the Lord for the occasion.
On April 14, 1986, Bishop Harris gave permission to establish and open the Korean church and for Father Kim to Pastor. The Lord blessed greatly as Korean people from all over the United States assisted to build the new church, including the cities of Austin, Dallas, and Philadelphia.
On August 12, 1986, there was an opening ceremony for the blessing of the land and construction began with a building cost of $210,000.
On January 11, 1987, an opening Mass was held with Bishop John McCarthy presiding; 60 parish members, 40 Korean Catholic Church members from Dallas, and 120 others from surrounding areas attended. Since that time, we have been blessed with Father John Birkmeyer, Father Lee Sang I Andrew, and on November 1, 1996, Father Richard O’Rourke, M.S.C. was appointed as Pastor. (And, after many years of service in other countries, Fr. Joseph Kim [Kim Sae Eul] has returned to the Parish as Associate Pastor.)
When it was decided that the increase in the number of people attending the weekend Masses justified a larger Church, we drew up a list of our needs and ideas for this new building. While emphasis would be on the central act of worship, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we were also conscious of providing a place of quiet prayer and contemplation. Added to this we saw the need of ensuring the community aspect of our faith by having a sacred space in which we can continue to grow as God’s people during worship. The prime placement of the Tabernacle in the Sanctuary was desired, as also was the position of the children’s chapel.
These needs were submitted to Mr. Philip Marley of Philip A. Marley Architects, Inc. of Killeen, who drew up the plans of the proposed church which fulfilled our ideas. The Diocesan Building Commission was impressed with the submitted design and accepted it with only minor modifications. Mr. Gene Martinka of Martinka Construction of Killeen was appointed General Contractor. It was his company that built all the original plans on this church site. Mitchell and Associates, Inc. were engaged as Engineers. The total cost of the building was budgeted at $750,000. The Groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 7, 1998, and we laid the Foundation Stone on August 9, 1998.
All this was made possible by the generous pledging made by our parishioners and the many extra donations for the furnishings received from them. Most of the furniture has been donated in memory of loved ones who will have a special place in our prayers. To the Diocesan Authorities, our Parish Committees, Mr. Philip Marley, the Architect, our sub-Contractors, all our donors and supporters and especially Mr. Gene Martinka who undertook full responsibility for the completion of such a fine building, the Parish will always be grateful.
“The stone which the builder rejected has become the keystone of the structure.” (Luke 20:17)