Nobody Should Ever Die Without Being Loved

Seongnam, South Korea

By Mike Viola

Fr. Vincnzo Bordo, OMI blesses the coffin of a homeless person at the local morgue

A few years ago Fr. Vincenzo Bordo, OMI was visiting his beloved homeless friends on the streets of Seongnam, South Korea.  A man approached him with an unusual request.

The man didn’t ask Fr. Vincenzo for some food or clothes.  Instead, he asked the priest for his business card.  The man explained that he had no family or friends, and wanted Fr. Vincenzo’s business card in case something ever happened to him.

 Recently, Fr. Vincenzo received a call from the police.  They had discovered a homeless man frozen to death.  There was no way to identify the man. He had no possessions, except for Fr. Vincenzo’s business card in his pocket.

Fr. Bordo hands out his card

I went to the hospital and checked my friend’s face at the body archives.  Yes, this was someone I knew,” said Fr. Vincenzo.  “I gave a prayer for my friend who was part of our family.  There was nobody else.  My heart hurt so much that tears kept flowing from my eyes.”

Devastated that someone would die alone, Fr. Vincenzo vowed that any future unknown homeless people would be buried with love and dignity.  So he told the police to contact him and his staff at Anna’s House whenever someone dies alone.

“Now if an unknown homeless person dies in Seongnam, I along with my staff go and have a funeral for this person,” said Fr. Vincenzo.  “Our homeless friends live hard lives and when they die they are often alone with nobody there to love them.  They are filled with pain and loneliness.  Nobody should ever die without being loved.”

Providing funerals for the forgotten is just part of an extensive homeless ministry that Fr. Vincenzo has overseen in Korea for the past 28 years. 

When he arrived in Korea as a young priest from Italy, Fr. Vincenzo was surprised to see the urban poor living in shantytowns on the outskirts of Seoul.  So he created Anna’s House, a soup kitchen to provide food to those living on the streets.

Over time, Anna’s House has grown to become the largest agency in Korea helping the homeless.  Every day more than 550 meals are distributed to the poorest of the poor.  Anna’s House also includes a shelter for runaway teenagers.

Fr. Bordo’s ministers hand out meals

 “We do not see the people who come to Anna’s House as poor people, we see them as human beings,” said Fr. Vincenzo.  “We call them family and we tell them ‘I love you.’”

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the dining facilities at Anna’s House had to be closed.  So Fr. Vincenzo and his team began to distribute hundreds of lunch boxes every day to people living on the streets, along with face masks and other safety equipment.

Covid-19 is just the latest roadblock placed before Fr. Vincenzo and his fellow missionaries.  But they are undeterred, knowing they have an army of volunteers and supporters from around the world committed to their ministry.

“I spend many sleepless nights trying to figure out what we can do and how to do it,” said Fr. Vincenzo.  “So I ask for your prayers.  We cannot abandon and turn our backs on these poor brothers and sisters in times of their greatest need.”