The fresh-faced American priest stood there like Ichabod Crane: startled and fence-post skinny inside a wind-whipped cassock, his sharp, dominant nose seemingly pointing out to the ruination before him. Squatters with blank stares picked through hills of garbage, beggars huddled in cardboard boxes, and lunatics muttered into the long-traveling winds coming from the plains of Manchuria in northern China.
It was December 8, 1957, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. But truly, it was Father’s Day—the first day of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz’ missionary priesthood in post-war South Korea. Putrefied sewage, decaying animals, and human waste scorched his nostrils, the incense of his new home. America wasn’t his any longer. He had given everything in his life to the Virgin of the Poor, and she in turn gave him her poor.
An exhausted-looking boy, unnoticed by Seoul’s morning passersby, zombied up a frozen path with a small girl, about three years old, tied to his back. She resembled a clump of unwashed clothes. Her hair was matted and had fallen out in patches. She was sick. The boy’s thin, cotton clothing looked to have just sopped up mud. Father Al’s heart was wrung.