Don’t Cry for Me Sudan – The Extraordinary Life of Padre Jolly


Don’t Cry for Me Sudan – The Extraordinary Life of Padre Jolly


The story of Padre Jolly of the Don Bosco mission in Tonj, South Sudan has touched the lives of many people. The story of his extraordinary life can be seen in the video below within this story.

After becoming a medical doctor, Padre Jolly went on to become a Roman Catholic priest, and then one day traveled to one the poorest places on earth to be with, and to help, the people of South Sudan in a town called Tonj.

Padre Jolly learnt the local Dinka language, and with his background as a medical doctor, help those who were suffering from leprosy and hundreds of other patients. He had a born talent for music, which he used to help the youth of Tonj.

Padre Jolly, the Korean Salesian, past away at the age of 47 (Korean Age, 48). His Korean birth name was Tae-Seok Lee (a.k.a. Father John Lee). The story of his life, and the kindness, that he had taken to Tonj continues to inspire those who are wishing to follow in his footsteps.

♦ Value-Added Insight 

Unlike China and Japan, South Korea has more than 5.14 million followers of the Roman Catholic faith, which is roughly 10.9% percent of South Korea’s population. If you add-in 18.3% who are Protestants, then South Korean Christians are 29.1% percent. In a country where 46.5% claim no formal religious affiliation, Christians have surpassed those who believe in Buddhism (22.8%). In other words, South Korea today is a society of many Christians.

In stark contrast, and in the nation of Japan, 90% percent of the population follow traditional Shinto (religious) customs by visiting their shrines. Even tough only 3% percent of the Japanese claim to be followers of the Shinto religion.

There is a huge “cultural/religious” difference between the Japanese and Koreans in terms of their national mindsets and faith. In Japan, less than 1% percent of the population are Christians (0.7% protestant and 0.2% Catholic). On the other hand, the number of people who follow Buddhism in Japan is near 34% which is a higher number than that of South Korea.

The greatest number of Catholics in Asia are in (1) the Philippines – 77.34 million, (2) India – 19.25 million, (3) Indonesia – 7.35 million, (4) Vietnam – 6.40 million and (5) South Korea – 5.14 million.

It is of no great surprise to people from the West who know that there are many Filipinos who are Catholic, but very few people have knowledge into the number of Roman Catholics elsewhere in Asia.

In history, the very first Roman Catholic missionary priests entered in to China (the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty) and India during the 13th century. The Italian priest John of Montecorvino (1247 – 1328) went to what was then called Khanbalik (now known as Beijing) in 1294, built a church and began translating the New Testament and Psalms in to the local language.

Prior to this visit of this Italian priest, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (1182 – 1252) was the first European to enter the Mongol Empire (1206 – 1368). In this regards, Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) was not the first European who had visited China.

A more permanent mission in China (1601) was established in 1601 by Matteo Ricci (1552 – 1610) — during the transition period of when China was shifting from Ming (1368 – 1644) Dynasty to the Manchurian-Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Pope Francis will visit South Korea this year (2014) between August 14th to the 18th. The last time the Pope had visit South Korea was in 1984 and 1989 with Pope Paul II.

People say that the Dinka people (tribe) of South Sudan who speak the Dinka language — which is the location of the Don Bosco Mission of Tonj — are the tallest people on earth. The famous NBA basketball player Manute Bol (height 231 cm, or 7 feet 7 inches) was the son of a Dinka Tribe elder. It is interesting that both Father Jolly and Manute Bol were born in the year 1962, and both of them past away (by coincidence) in the same year (2010).

♦ Food for Thought 

In East Asia, the separation of church (religion) and state (government) has been achieved in Korea, Russia and China. In Russia, when the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917, they declared separation of church and state. In China, and after 1949 during the Cultural Revolution period, China’s government officially took an atheist position, and led to a policy of eliminating religion.

If you fast-forward to today in China, 31.4% of people consider themselves as being a religious person, of which approximately 66% are Buddhists. The major 5 religions recognized in China today are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism, whereas Buddhism and Taoism is most widespread. The future role of religion in China is a subject / topic of interest that many people are following these days.

With more than a decade behind us in the twenty-first century, Japan remains the only country in East Asia where a clear separation of state and religion has not been fully put into practice. Despite Japan’s post world war constitution, which had forcefully (by primarily the Americans) separated Japan’s Shinto religion from its government (state); Japan’s political leaders of today still publicly display their worship to Shinto shrines with the argument that is a private (personal) visit while being accompanied by their cabinet ministers.

♦ Language Footnote 

  •  Father John (Tae-Seok) Lee // Padre Jolly // 이태석 신부

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