In this century of modern mass warfare few countries have been as devastated as Korea. Armies that 30 years ago carried their campaigns down the peninsula left the "land of the morning calm" scarred almost beyond recognition. Cities were leveled by artillery and bombs. Bridges, roads, dams and farmsteads were badly damaged; livestock was eaten by the soldiers; and several million Korean civilians were among the casualties.
For the survivors, the loss of family and the wreckage of society were even more traumatic. In the mass flight south from the communist invaders tens of thousands of parents lost their children; some families are only now being reunited through televised appeals. In the cold Korean winters, amidst the confusion of combat, many a child seeking shelter or a warm bowl of barley-gruel disappeared. War left nearly one-half the adult population without productive employment and reduced to selling rags and waste paper, begging, and stealing as a last resort. When Fr. ALOYSIUS SCHWARTZ arrived -- four years after the war's end -- as a secular priest in the southern diocese of Pusan, most of the city's then over one million residents still lived in makeshift shacks.
Born in 1930 in Washington, D.C., SCHWARTZ had decided in grade school upon his vocation as a missionary priest, and in college on serving the poor. Studying initially in a Maryknoll seminary, he found the living conditions too plush and transferred to the Societe des Auxiliares des Missions in Louvain, Belgium, where he completed his schooling. He was ordained in Washington and promptly left to take up his assignment in Pusan.
Amidst the poverty and cruelty of what in 1957 was one of Korea's worst slums, he assisted in diocesan work while learning the Korean language. Deeply sympathetic to the human tragedy around him, and angered by pious complacency, Fr. SCHWARTZ increasingly became convinced that Christianity must be expressed through a "church of the poor." Invalided to the United States in 1959 for complications arising from hepatitis, he pondered how to proceed, and in 1960 founded Korean Relief, Inc., to raise funds by mail in the U.S. to be used in service to the poor.
Returning to Pusan in 1962 he was appointed pastor of the depressed Song-do parish, where ministering to spiritual needs proved to be only part of his calling. Disturbed by the poor care given orphans, he enlisted and trained young women volunteers to become "mothers," each to 10-12 of the orphans under his care.
From such beginnings grew Pusan's Boystown and Girlstown, which now provide kindergarten through technical high school?and recently junior college, for some 1,400 of the most underprivileged. Boystown and Girlstown in Seoul followed, where over 2,600 are similarly educated and cared for. Fr. SCHWARTZ conducts mass on both campuses to build spirits, and encourages sports to build bodies, teamwork and self-confidence. His hospitals in Seoul and Pusan, and Tuberculosis Sanatarium in the latter, serve only the poor and are staffed by some of Korea's ablest medical personnel. Kaengsaengwon, another home, provides care for 1,500 destitute aged and disabled adults, and training for 200 poorly adjusted or retarded youngsters. Operating these institutions are the Sisters of Mary, founded by SCHWARTZ from the nucleus of "orphan mothers," and now numbering 150 Korean women. Assisting them are the 13 men of his new order, the Brothers of Christ, likewise dedicated to serving the poor. Visitors remark on the spontaneity, cleanliness and health of the young charges, the involvement of the sick and elderly, and the fine maintenance of all the facilities.
Fr. SCHWARTZ raises three-fourths of his annual budget -- today approximating US$8 million -- through a direct, personal, mail-appeal-for-Christian-giving to millions of Europeans and Americans each year. The Korean Government covers the rest of the costs, recognizing that Fr. SCHWARTZ provides for that sector of society which has not benefited from the nation's remarkable economic advances of the past two decades. Although gangsters and others have tried to thwart his interference with their exploitation of Korea's social outcasts, and have tested his perseverance, no one has shaken his determination that the poor not only must be fed and clothed, but also given the education and skills to enable them to participate fully in society.
In electing Fr. ALOYSIUS SCHWARTZ, priest of Pusan, to receive the 1983 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his mobilizing European and American support to succor acutely deprived Korean youngsters, homeless elderly and infirm.