PROVIDENCE — The donation from afar was one of goodwill and caring for the safety of those ministering to the most vulnerable in the Diocese of Providence.
Last fall, Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul, the third Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Incheon, South Korea, sent 5,000 Korean-made KF94 safety breathing masks to help support the outreach work of the Diocese of Providence.
Two of Bishop Jung Shin-chul’s diocesan priests, Father Peter H. Lee and Father Peter J. (Jaekyu) Lee, are currently serving in the Providence Diocese.
“My bishop thinks the Diocese of Providence is a good friend of the Diocese of Incheon, so he was concerned about the people in the Diocese of Providence. He wanted to keep them safe so that’s why he sent the masks,” said Father Peter J. Lee, 48, who was ordained in South Korea in 2001 and currently ministers to the Korean Catholic community in Rhode Island, while in residence at St. Paul Church, Cranston.
Father Peter H. Lee, ordained in South Korea in 2017, currently serves as associate pastor of St. Augustine Church, Providence.
He said that his bishop was happy to express his good will to the people of the diocese here by sending a Korean made product that is especially needed to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Korean masks are of good quality, so my bishop really wanted to give them to the Diocese of Providence as a sign of a good relationship,” Father Peter H. Lee said.
When received by the Diocese of Providence, the masks were divided among crucial ministries performing outreach to those most in need.
Staff at the St. Martin de Porres senior center and the Emmanuel House homeless shelter, both agencies of the diocese’s department of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry, received the masks to help keep both their clients and themselves as safe as possible with their outreach, despite the pandemic, never slowing down.
Linda A’Vant-Deishinni, director of the diocesan St. Martin de Porres Center, was grateful for Bishop Jung Shin-chul’s generous gift.
“It was a big blessing for us,” A’Vant-Deishinni said. “What a wonderful gift to send to us.”
Although traditional senior activities at the center had to be curtailed at the onset of the health emergency, many seniors still come to the center, albeit socially distanced, to pick up food and care packages to help them meet their needs at home.
The masks allow staff and volunteers to help care for their elderly clients in need.
“These are good quality masks. I love wearing them and wish I had a lot more of them because they protect us, especially in the work we’re doing. We’re all trying to protect ourselves, here, with so many volunteers, we’re trying to protect them and masks can be expensive,” A’Vant-Deishinni said.
The Emmanuel House homeless shelter in South Providence received about 2,000 of the masks for use by their staff.
“It’s been a tremendous gift; we use them every day,” said Dotty Perreault, director of Emmanuel House.
“A lot of the volunteers are elderly, and we do some outreach at camp sites around the city because people living there can’t go into a store or into a restaurant restroom or anywhere without a mask, and they don’t have access to masks.”
Secretary of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry James Jahnz said that some of the masks are also being used by staff working at the diocesan chancery building in their outreach work to the community.
“These masks are extremely helpful. They are very much needed and very much appreciated,” Jahnz said.
“We’re utilizing them in the main office when we have appointments coming in for immigration refugees, and we’re also using them here at the St. Martin de Porres Center for the seniors who are coming in. They are also a huge help at the shelter,” he added.
“What we know is that masks work, and this goes a long way to promote the safety of not only our clients and guests, but also our staff.”