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A BRIEF REPORT ON MARY'S TOUCH BY MAIL

July 12, 2010

 

  1. My conversion to the Catholic Faith
  2. I was born and grew up in a Presbyterian family in South Korea. My father was a clergyman and the secretary general of YMCA in Taegu, Korea. During my high-school years (the early 1960s), I wanted to know more about the entire history of the Christianity, because the Protestant churches only existed from the 16th Century. I had difficulty in understanding and accepting that there had been no true Christian Church for one thousand five hundred years between the times of the Twelve Apostles and the era of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers. I had to investigate and learn more about the contents of the Christian Faith including that of the Catholic Church and about the reasons and justification for the Protestant Reformation. I began reading many Catholic books, because they were totally new to me. I was most impressed by the Lives of the Saints and the Catholic teachings such as "The Faith of Our Fathers" by Cardinal Gibbons which covered the faith and teachings of the early church leaders in the Roman Empire, instead of just relying on what was being taught in the Protestant churches about the Catholic Church. It took about two years for me to clear all my doubts and questions and become convinced that the Church established by Our Lord could not be replaced "new churches" started by humans. I was baptized into the Catholic Church in Taegu, Korea, on September 25, 1964, the Feast of the Korean martyrs of the 18th and 19th centuries, even though my initial purpose in studying the Catholic Faith was not conversion.

    My father was in sick bed for six years and, in 1970 when I was still serving in the military, consented to receive the Sacrament of the Sick from a Catholic monsignor with the Catholic name of Francisco before he passed away. My mother and wife also converted to the Catholic Faith and were baptized by an Irish missionary priest at the Korean Catholic Church in Chicago in 1980.

     

  3. Called to a Mission
  4. After my graduate study in International Economics at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, I taught at a college in Illinois for six years (1977-1983) and, then, worked at a bank in Portland, Oregon, for 3.5 years (1983-1987). From 1987, I was with a different company managing exports and imports with Korea. In early 1991, I left that company and began a family-owned export company. In May 1991, my family wanted to become more devoted to Our Lord and Our Lady and consecrated ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a small Croatian church in Portland, Oregon (St. Brigitta's). On August 15 of the same year, after we attended the Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Portland, I took a photograph of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was touring different cities in the United States and was placed in the front of the church at the shrine on that day. When the photo was developed, there were several unexpected images of the Eucharist and others in the photograph, and we gradually perceived this as a sign of the Blessed Mother's calling us to a special work with her. Many other people also showed interest in this photo, and we mailed about 20,000 copies of this photo to priests and lay people within a few years.

    On August 22, 1991, Chris, our 11 year-old son, and I began our first trip to Europe. Before a business meeting in Germany, we made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, which was a very special experience. During another business trip to Seoul, Korea, on October 19, 1991, Saturday, I took an express bus to Naju to take a few photographs of the Blessed Mother's weeping statue, if possible. I was anxious to see the statue, because I had read about it in several newspapers and had seen it in the video: Marian Apparitions of the 20th Century. It was early evening when I arrived at the Blessed Mother's Chapel in Naju. Many people were gathering in the Chapel for an overnight prayer meeting, as it was the 6th anniversary of the Blessed Mother's first shedding of tears of blood. I did not know this before I got there.

     

  5. Connected to Naju
  6. That night in Naju, I was deeply impressed by the Blessed Mother's tears in her left eye and the fragrance of roses filling the Chapel throughout the night and also by Julia Kim's testimony. The fragrance was very powerful and sweet and unlike any other fragrance that I could smell in this world. It was very pleasant and uplifting and similar to the odor of fresh roses but not exactly the same. Before I went to Naju, I had only read about it in the Lives of the Saints. Noticing that there was no English publication in Naju, I offered to Julio Kim (Julia's husband) that I would translate the messages into English and spread the information in the United States.

    After returning home in Oregon, I completed the translation of the original Korean message book into English in a few months. I had no intention to publish this book myself and asked Dr. Tom Petrisko of Pittsburgh Center for Peace to publish it. He agreed, but later asked me to publish it myself. So, unexpectedly, I found myself directly involved in publishing the first Naju message book in English. Before sending the English manuscript to the printing company, I sent it to Fr. Raymond Spies in Korea for his permission, as he was Julia's spiritual director. At that time, Fr. Spies was not eager to give me the permission, as he had never met me and had been informed by a lady in Canada, a school teacher, that she would translate the messages in French (already translated from the Korean original by Fr. Spies) into English. But when Fr. Spies received from me the manuscript of the English translation by Express Mail, he was totally surprised and filled with joy, because the package containing the manuscript was giving off a very strong fragrance of roses even from the post office in Fr. Spies' town. Of course, this had not been expected or imagined by anyone including myself. This fragrance probably was a sign from the Blessed Mother of her calling us to a mission through Catholic publications. Fr. Spies called me at 1:30 A.M., the Oregon time, and enthusiastically gave me the permission to publish the book. In October 1992, Chris and I visited Fr. Spies' residence near Seoul after our pilgrimage to Naju and delivered a box of the new English message books, which gave much joy to him.

     

  7. Established a non-profit organization: Mary's Touch By Mail
  8. When I was beginning the work of promoting the information about Naju, my plan was to use the funds generated in our family-owned company. But, soon, it became clear that I had to devote all my time and resources to the work for the Blessed Mother, as the workload kept increasing as we were publishing not only the message book but also other books, pamphlets, newsletters, and videos. I simply could not adequately focus on the family business any longer, which also required full dedication and focus to become successful. I finally made the decision to give up the family business and devote myself completely to the work for the Blessed Mother as my family and I had promised during our consecration at St. Brigitta's in May 1991. My wife and our son cooperated without any complaint or serious concern, as they also were strongly motivated to work for the Blessed Mother. There still was a big question about the financial feasibility of the new work. In 1992, we established ourselves as a non-profit organization registered with the State of Oregon so that we could receive donations, which would be tax-deductible to the donation givers. In 1993, we were recognized by the IRS as a non-profit corporation. Our spiritual director was Fr. Mikulich, the Pastor at St. Brigitta Church in Portland, but, about a year later, he permanently moved to Croatia because of his health problems. So, we asked Fr. Robert Billett, the Superior of the Claritian Missionary Priests in Los Angeles, to be our spiritual director, and he graciously consented.

     

  9. What we have done so far
  10. Now, in 2010, our organization is in its 19th year of business, which seems amazing considering our small size and financial weakness. During that period, we published 10 books, 9 color pamphlets, 10 videos/DVDs, and many newsletters in English, all on the subject of Naju. We also published one Spanish message book with help for translation from Mexico. We also published 4 books in Korean: two were collections of articles defending Naju and two others were translations of Fr. Stefano Manelli's book: Jesus Our Eucharistic Love and Professor Dietrich Hildebrand's Trojan Horse in the City of God. These two latter books were published through a publishing company in Seoul, Korea. I translated and published these two books, because I believed that Naju was important only to the extent it assisted and supported the already existing authentic teachings of the Catholic Faith. I also wrote many articles and translated English articles into Korean for use in Korea. We have also distributed about fifty thousand color photographs of the Blessed Mother's weeping, the Eucharistic miracles, the Precious Blood of Our Lord, and more. We sent numerous reports and letters to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Holy See to keep them current on Naju.

    In October 1993, Julia came and spoke at churches in Los Angeles, CA; Tacoma, WA; and Beaverton, OR. She came again in 1994 to speak at Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Toronto, Canada; and Honolulu and Kailua, HI (A Eucharistic miracle occurred in Kailua). In 1997, she visited Hong Kong and Macao. In 2005, she visited Manila and Cebu in the Philippines. In these trips, I served as her interpreter.

    We also organized pilgrimages from the United States to Naju in 1995 and 1996. In addition, we made personal pilgriamges to Naju in 1992, 1998, 2003, and 2005. I visited the Vatican as Fr. Aloysius Chang's interpreter in February 2008. Our son, Christopher, also visited Rome for meetings with the Vatican officials in 2006.

    In 2005, I went to St. Louis, MO to speak at a church and several homes and also spoke at a few churches and homes in Portland, OR at various times.

    After January 1, 1998, when the Kwangju Archdiocese announced its negative Declaration on Naju, we made many efforts, mostly in writing, to refute the contents of this Declaration and subsequent official documents from the Kwangju Archdiocese, as we were convinced that these documents contained some serious distortions of the official Church teachings on the Holy Eucharist and the miracles and that the Naju Investigating Committee completely failed to conduct an objective investigation of Naju. We assisted the workers in Naju in planning and sending petitions to the Holy See and the Korean Bishops' Conference in Seoul, Korea on several occasions.

    In addition, we have a website for Mary's Touch By Mail, which is occasionally updated.

    For printing and binding books and pamphlets, we rely on Tan Books in Rockford, Illinois, and Journal Graphics in Portland, Oregon. I do the writing and designing, but the technical work of proofreading and typesetting is done by Chris. Chris also does accounting, taxes, proofreading most of my writings and translations, making new videos/DVDs, managing the website, and some traveling. My wife helps me by doing much work in the office. All three of us have participated in all decision-makings. This has enabled to be fast and efficient in decision-making and also to save money, as our son has not received any remuneration at all and my wife has not received any for 16 years until 2007.

     

  11. How we have managed financially
  12. At the beginning, $20,000 that the family had in the bank was the only funds available to the new company. We used that money and also several credit cards with my name (as the new organization did not have any credit rating and could not apply for a credit card) to cover the organization expenses. We strictly kept separation between the company's expenditures with the family's. Also, the family did not use the credit cards at all. We used these two sources of funds to pay for all of the early publications. Our VISA/MasterCard debts accumulated to over $45,000 between 1992 and 1996. The credit card debts were paid off with the donations from Mr. George Banworth, a former businessman in Iowa.

    Especially during the first years of the organization, we severely restricted the family's expenditures, not buying any clothing, never eating out, and postponing many of the necessary expenditures at home, for example. As I was working full-time, I had to receive some salary. My annual salary was $7,000 in the first year and $10,000 in the second. Our mortgage payment alone was almost $10,000 per year. Our extreme frugality and use of our past savings enabled us to survive and the organization to avoid losses until 2005. My wife and Chris did not receive any remuneration for their work from the beginning of the organization until 2007. In 2007, my wife began receiving $500 minus taxes per month so that she could buy some clothing and other items needed at home. Chris still does not receive any pay from the organization. My low salary could not be sustained, however, because, with that salary, we were not able to pay the bills. So, gradually my salary had to be raised, but still is far below what a person with my education and experience could receive. Now, my salary is about $30,000 per year. Even with this salary, it seems very difficult to take care of the long-neglected house repairs or the dental visits that I neglected for 12 years. We still have no health insurance. To stay healthy, we practice natural health methods such as exercise and diet. Chris has had his own full-time work and has always been completely independent of the organization and the rest of the family for his financial needs. My mother had lived with us and all of her expenses had been covered by Social Security and Medicare. She passed away in 1996.

    From 1992 to 1998, there was quite a strong public interest in Naju and the publications on Naju. After the local diocese in Korea announced its negative Declaration on Naju, however, the public interest in Naju gradually decreased to almost zero after a few years. The opposing priests in Korea know about us and our work and probably thought that we would go out of business or quit soon after the Declaration. They were correct in thinking that the public support for our work severely dried up. From late 1996, however, an individual living in Iowa began supporting us, sending us an average of about $50,000 per year. His help enabled us to maintain the same high level of publishing and mailing activities and also to compensate for the drastic reduction in other donations and sales of publications due to the negative Declaration issued by the local church in Korea in 1998. To publish a new book, printing 10,000 copies at a time, the printing cost alone is about $25,000. To publish a four-page color pamphlet, printing 100,000 copies, the printing cost is about $8,000. We were able to continue producing these products despite the diminishing and disappearing small donations and sales revenues. A large portion of our shipments have always been sent freely to many individuals domestically and abroad. In recent years, almost all of our shipments have been free shipments, while sales have almost disappeared.

    In 2005, our main sponsor in Iowa retired from his business and his donations rapidly decreased to almost zero by now. As a result, we have run substantial deficits in every year since 2005. We are not in an immediate crisis, but, financial recovery is urgently needed. We still are the only organization in the world publishing in English on Naju. Also our English publications and newsletters have been translated into many other languages and published in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

     

  13. A hostile IRS audit for three and a half years: 2007-2010
  14. To make the situation more difficult, an IRS agent in Seattle began the audit of our organization and myself in February 2007. We were not worried, because we had nothing to hide or to feel ashamed of. Minor mistakes out of ignorance were possible, but we looked forward to finding them and correcting them. We soon learned that this agent, a young Asian American, was hostile and prejudiced toward us. It seemed possible that she had been influenced by the opponents of Naju, as they have many Korean helpers living in this country. This agent was also inexperienced and made many rash and incorrect calculations. She accused us as commercial booksellers and private agents of Julia Kim disguising as religious missionaries. After three and a half years, she finally wrote her concluding reports, in which she recommended the revocation of our non-profit status and penalties of tens of thousands of dollars. We appealed to the IRS Appeals Office and very recently, the appeals process was promptly completed. The appeals officer based in Houston, Texas, concluded that our non-profit status would be maintained and the extra tax will be $5,000 instead of more than $20,000 according to the agent. We did not think we had to pay any extra tax, but were happy to conclude the whole audit process right now by paying it. We have learned that the IRS appeals office would not let people go free without paying some tax. So, we are very happy and grateful to the Lord and the Blessed Mother for this victory and for the freedom from the hostile interferences and obstructions.

     

  15. Getting ready for the new era

The IRS appeals officer also suggested that we add two more Directors, preferably including at least one Church official. We asked His Excellency Bishop Roman Danylak of Toronto, Canada, and a layperson in California to join our Board of Directors. Both persons graciously accepted our invitation, and we are so grateful and encouraged. So, now we are ready to make a new start. The official church recognition of Naju is surely coming, even though we do not know the exact time. The support from the Holy See is firm. The ferociously opposition by the liberal, modernist priests in Korea is intensifying, but we do not have any doubt that the Blessed Mother will prevail soon and accomplish her objectives in the Church and the world. The official recognition of Naju will not be the end but the beginning of the tremendous work of evangelizing Asia and other areas in the world and re-evangelizing the people in Europe and the Americas. We, at Mary's Touch By Mail, work in response to the calling from the Lord and the Blessed Mother. We do the work with the help from Our Lord and Our Lady. Of course, we are just a tiny part of the whole army fighting for the Blessed Mother's cause. The Blessed Mother's work and triumph will be composed of the efforts of the countless little workers in the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. This means that every person living in this world is given a small but precious role and is called to join the Blessed Mother's work and war.

So, we cordially invite everyone to rise and go forward for the goal of achieving the true renewal and revitalization in the Catholic Church and the true peace and salvation in the whole world.

Benedict Sang M. Lee


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