Barbara Sim Jo-i (1813-1839)
Barbara Sim Jo-i was born to a noble family in Incheon. She married Thomas Hong Bong-ju when she was about 20 years old. Luke Hong Nak-min who was martyred in 1801 was her grandfather-in-law and Protase Hong Jae-yeong, who was arrested with her and was martyred in 1840, was her father-in-law. Her husband Thomas was martyred in 1866.
Barbara Sim was not intelligent, so, despite her efforts, she could not learn the catechism except the absolute essentials. But, she had strong faith and was eager to do charity and help others.
When the Gihae Persecution broke out in 1839 Barbara Sim was living in Gwangju, Jeolla-do because her father-in-law was in exile there. She opened her house to many faithful who had escaped and were hiding from the persecution and took care of them with generosity. She never complained, dedicating herself to helping them, providing them with food and necessary services. She never mentioned her fatigue.
Barbara Sim was arrested along with her father-in-law and the other faithful. They were taken to the Jeonju governor‘s office. When she was arrested and interrogated, she looked serene and peaceful. Although she was fragile and had poor health, she never showed any fear of the implement of torture or the chief officials` yelling.
Barbara Sim was put in prison after she was severely tortured many times. Despite such cruel torture, she never even groaned, but endured it all with courage. The most painful punishment for her was to see her two-year old son dying slowly of hunger and disease. She overcame this suffering too with the power of faith.
The governor of Jeolla-do, on realizing that she would not change her mind, pronounced the death sentence on her. But, the Lord did not allow Barbara Sim to live until her execution. She contracted dysentery, due to the severe punishment and the poor condition in the prison. As she knew that death was close, she prepared herself to welcome the last moment of her life properly.
It was on November 11, 1839 (October 6, by the Lunar calendar) that she died a martyr in prison. Barbara Sim was 26 years old.
Some hours later, her son died too. The following is an excerpt from the written sentence that the Jeolla-do governor submitted to the royal court:
"Kim Jo-i learned about the Catholic faith from her father-in-law. She declared that the Catholic teaching is an authentic doctrine and even gave up her spousal relationship. She desired to die saying that death means the `ascension of the soul into Heaven`. She was instructed in the Catholic teaching for seven years. She said that she cannot abandon the vow she made before the crucifix and she would never give up her faith in God even if she has to pay for it by her death."