Priest and Beggar

Priest and Beggar

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In 1957, at twenty-seven years old, Father Aloysius Schwartz of Washington, D.C., asked to be sent to one of the saddest places in the world: South Korea in the wake of the Korean War. Just a few months into his priesthood, he stepped off the train in Seoul into a dystopian film. Squatters with blank stares picked through hills of garbage. Paper-fleshed orphans lay on the streets like leftover war shrapnel. The scenes pierced him.

Within just fifteen years, Father Schwartz had changed the course of Korean history, founding and reforming orphanages, hospitals, hospices, clinics, schools, and the Sisters of Mary, a Korean religious order dedicated to the sickest of the sick and the poorest of the poor. All the while, he himself—like the Sisters—lived the same hard poverty as the people he served and loved.

Biographer Kevin Wells tells the story of a different kind of American hero, an ordinary priest who stared down corruption, slander, persecution, and death for the sake of God's poor. "What Father Al managed to do is beyond the pale", said his longtime collaborator Monsignor James Golasinski. "He was the boldest man I ever knew. He feared nothing."

Known for his joy and his humor, even in the teeth of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Schwartz was declared a Servant of God by Pope Francis in 2015. By the time of his death in 1992, his work with the Sisters of Mary had spread to the Philippines and Mexico; and since then, the Sisters have founded Boystowns and Girlstowns across Central and South America, as well as in Tanzania. Father Schwartz died calling out to his beloved Mary, the Virgin of the Poor, saying, "All praise, honor, and glory for anything good accomplished in my life goes to her and to her alone."