Protase Hong Jae-yeong (1780-1840)
Protase Hong Jae-yeong was born in Yesan, Chungcheong-do to a noble family and grew up in Seoul. Luke Hong Nak-min who was martyred in 1801 was his father, and Thomas Hong Bong-ju who was martyred in 1866 was his son.
Protase Hong learned the catechism from his father. When he grew up, he participated in church activities and studied the teaching of the Church by forming a community with other Catholics. He was arrested with his father during the Shinyu Persecution of 1801 and failed to keep his faith. He was exiled to Gwangju, Jeolla-do.
During his exile he did not practice his religion for a time. One day, thanks to God`s grace, he regained his faith and his ardent love for God grew all the more. He repented deeply his errors and practiced his religion with more zeal than ever. He educated his children according to the teaching of the Church and devoted himself to prayer and meditation. Sometimes he could not even walk upright because he had stayed so long in prayer in a kneeling position. Three times a week he fasted and gave alms to the needy faithful with generosity.
In 1832 the royal court declared an amnesty to exiled criminals. The magistrate of Gwangju called Protase Hong and tried to persuade him to renounce his religion saying, `Now, change your mind and go back to your hometown.` But he refused his offer squarely and continued to live in Gwangju.
When the Gihae Persecution broke out in 1839, Protatse Hong`s heart was filled with ardent desire to die for God after the example of so many martyrs. He sought to find an opportunity for the martyrdom that he missed. He gladly offered his house to the faithful who were being sought by the police and treated them like family members. Police, dispatched from Jeonju attacked his house and arrested him and all the other Catholics.
The magistrate of Gwangju interrogated Protase Hong once more and ordered that he be transferred to Jeonju with the other believers. While he was being taken to Jeonju, as many as three to four hundred people came out to the street and grieved saying, `How is it possible to punish such an innocent person in that way?` Some hugged him and some cried for him.
Arriving at Jeonju Protase Hong had to go through severe interrogation and torture, but he refused to reveal anything about Catholics or betray the Lord. He was taken to the governor for more severe punishment, but his faith in God was never shaken.
The governor of Jeonju, on realizing that he would not change his mind, pronounced the death sentence on Protase Hong and ordered him to be imprisoned. When the royal court sent the judicial decision, the governor called him again and attempted to sway him, but it was in vain. The following is an excerpt from the written death sentence:
"Hong Jae-yeong is an evil man by nature, and his family has believed in the Catholic religion for generations. He helped to invite a missionary and transcribed over one hundred and ten Catholic books. He also hid a large number of Catholics. Thus, it is appropriate to execute him."
Protase Hong was taken to the execution ground with the other Catholics. He was beheaded and died a martyr on January 4, 1840 (November 30, 1839 by the Lunar calendar). Protase Hong was 60 years old.