Local News and Stories

New Korean missionary priest brings ministry to the Diocese of Juneau

By Dominique Johnson

Following the will of God is the goal for Father Marino Cho, the new Korean Missionary Society priest serving in the Diocese of Juneau.

The Korean Missionary Society or KMS sends priests to minister to areas around the globe in need of priests. Alaska and New York are the only states in the United States where missionaries serve. Father Augustine Minn currently serves as parish administrator at St. John by the Sea parish in Klawock, and two other KMS priests are working in parishes in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. Other countries served by KMS priests include Mexico, Cambodia, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.
Father Marino was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Daegu, South Korea, in 2012 and spent most of his time in ministry serving parishes.

Growing up, Father Marino didn’t consider a vocation to the priesthood and had plans for a career as a doctor. When the time came for him to prepare for his college entrance exam, Father Marino began to think about what career choice would leave him fulfilled at the end of his life. After time in prayer and discernment, he felt called to the priesthood.

With an abundance of priests in the Archdiocese of Daegu, Father Marino was asked to serve as Parochial Vicar at Holy Korean Martyrs Catholic Church (HKMCC) in Baltimore, Maryland. While ministering at HKMCC, Father Marino saw the need for priests in the United States.

He recalled visiting a parishioner in the hospital Intensive Care Unit one day and being asked to pray for a dying patient in the next room because their pastor couldn’t visit that day. He said, “In Baltimore, one pastor might be managing three parishes.”

It was after this experience that Father Marino thought, “In Korea there are many priests in my Archdiocese,” over 500 priests serving 170 parishes. So, he decided, “If I want to be a good priest, I should stay in the United States,” he continued saying, “If Jesus met the same situation, he would do the same thing.”

After seeing a similar situation like the one at the hospital multiple times, Father Marino asked his Archbishop for permission to stay in the United States. After returning to Korea, the Archbishop gave Father Marino the okay, to serve as a priest in America, but finding a diocese to serve wasn’t an easy task.

Father Marino shared that he emailed every diocese in the United States about serving one of their parishes, but didn’t receive any responses. “I was so disappointed and thought about giving up,” Father Marino shared. After more research, he found out that a Korean priest was serving in the Diocese of Juneau, Father Augustine Minn. Father Marino reached out to Father Augustine via email and learned about the Korean Missionary Society.
“I didn’t know about KMS before that,” Father Marino said, but he quickly contacted them to inquired about how he could become a missionary priest. After a year of training with KMS, Father Marino came to Juneau to serve as a missionary priest in the diocese.

Since arriving in Juneau in December, Father Marino has been serving as Parochial Vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish. He said he is thankful for the welcome he has received at the parish.

Father Marino says he looks forward to ministering to the people of God in the Diocese of Juneau and “Doing what Jesus calls me to do.”